From a third-person point of view, we see caregivers as hardworking, compassionate, dedicated, and active people. But there’s more to what we see on the surface. Behind their title, caregivers are like any working people who experience emotional and mental troubles from their responsibilities that impact their health.
A Glimpse of Caregivers’ State of Health
Caregivers experience a range of negative emotions and mental tolls in their line of work. Learn what they are and some tips to cope with them.
- 1. Ambivalence
It’s a state of having contradictory emotions about someone or something. For example, someone hates their job but still goes to work to earn a living. In caregiving, one second, you’re fulfilled and happy but depressed the next. You might ask yourself, “Should I still do this? Conflicting emotions are expected, so don’t judge yourself for thinking you want to quit caring for a loved one.Coping tips:
Acknowledge your emotions, both positive and negative, and know that these emotions won’t last forever. When it’s overwhelming, take a break and spend some time alone.2. Anger
You’re not a violent person, but there’s at least one time you feel like yelling, screaming, or slamming the door to vent your anger. How many times did you feel that you “lost it”? This situation seems ugly, but it happens to many family caregivers, especially when caring for someone living with dementia or complex health conditions.
It’s easy to get mad at situations where your loved one neglects their doctor’s advice, becomes irrational, or disregards your efforts in caring for them.Coping tips:
You can’t get your emotions under wraps, so forgive yourself for getting angry. Next time you’re in the same situation, take a couple of deep breaths and walk away. Reflect on what happened and be more understanding of yourself. Find trustworthy people with whom you can vent about the things you experience as a family caregiver. You can also join support groups online, meet other family caregivers, and open up talks about how to manage anger.3. Resentment
When you mainly consider giving care out of obligation instead of out of love, you may resent your loved ones when you're emotionally overwhelmed by fulfilling that obligation. When you do the “obligation” alone, you’ll resent other family members for not pitching in for help.Coping tips:
It's valid to have these feelings as a person. Changing your perspective about caregiving—from something you're obligated to do to something you do because of love—will help you manage this negative feeling.4. Guilt
If you don't see your aging loved one's condition improve, you blame yourself because you're not trained, you lack skills, or you’re doing the wrong thing. You tend to confine and self-impose on something that you "should," "must," and "ought" to do. Sometimes, it feels like you're not doing enough.Coping tips:
Be kind to yourself and understand that you have limitations. You can't do everything at once. When you accept that your skills, resources, time, and energy are not infinite, you understand that you—or anyone else—can't be perfect caregivers.5. Loneliness
Caregiving can isolate you from the people around you. If you're a full-time employee and a family caregiver, you’ll need to give up social activities and hurry back home after work to look after your aging parents. This leads you to sacrifice your social life, resulting in caregiver burnout.Coping tips:
If you have important social events to attend, reach out to a family member, neighbor, or home care agency and let them take over your care tasks for a few hours. Not compromising your social life is a form of self-care.6. Depression
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 40-70% of caregivers manifest depressive symptoms, with as many as 25-50% of caregivers getting a positive diagnosis for major depression.Coping tips:
Anxiety, stress, and depression are prevalent among caregivers, but you can prevent them by simply asking for help. Sometimes, you have to step aside and let others assume your caregiving tasks so that you can look after yourself. Accept that you shouldn't and can't do it all alone. Therapy for stress and anxiety management can help you find balance in your role as a caregiver.7. Embarrassment
If you're caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's, they may exhibit problematic behaviors, like cursing or giving rude comments to other people. As symptoms get worse, they may lose their social filters and have inappropriate outbursts, which is embarrassing.Coping tips:
When outbursts occur in public, stay calm and take a deep breath. Find ways to downplay the situation and determine what triggered their rage. Remember that it's not your loved one but the disease that causes them to act in negative manners.8. Worry
Worry is always a part of caregiving. You worry about your care expenses, your loved one's health, and the future. You are obsessed with these things because you don't have control over many situations. You’re stuck in a loop of "what ifs," and you pay with your peace of mind.Coping tips:
When worry floods you, do your best to break the cycle of negative thoughts. Mindful breathing techniques can help you redirect your attention from the future to the present moment. You can also seek a counselor for advice on relaxation techniques for stress relief.9. Tiredness
Caregiving is taxing. It affects all aspects of your well-being, from physical to social. Many times, you’ll do one task after another without any break. On top of that, you'll have the worst thoughts and emotions and question yourself if you're doing the right thing—all the negativity makes caregiving even more tiring.Coping tips:
When it becomes too much to handle, step away from caregiving. Go on vacation and use that time for self-care and reflection. Think of ways to sustain and better manage your loved one's care needs without tiring yourself. If hiring a professional caregiver can help offload some tasks you find hard to do, then do so.10. Impatience
When your doctor suggests that your senior dad quit smoking or excessive drinking but does them still behind your back, it can be frustrating. You may lose your temper and argue with them if they don’t follow their doctor.Coping tips:
If you ever run out of patience, learn to forgive yourself. Focus on improvement and things you can do to support your loved one instead of hating yourself or blaming them for pushing you to your limits. Don't hesitate to ask for help when needed.
Become a Better Caregiver by Practicing Self-Care
Some caregivers spiral into depression and mental health issues because they often overlook their own well-being. What many failed to understand is that caregiving includes self-care. If you care for loved ones, you should also care for yourself, including taking a few days off from caregiving or spending days alone for reflection.
Strong positive emotions, such as love, compassion, and kindness, make caregivers endure fatigue and lack of sleep, which are detrimental to health. Instead, think of ways to balance your role as a caregiver and your responsibilities to your own health. After all, you can’t be a carer if you’re sick.
Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.