Whatever your situation, it is important to remember that you, too, are important. You have many options to cope, including the acceptance of your limitations.
Caregiving can be challenging, exhausting, and emotionally draining. It can generate anger, guilt, and grief. Sometimes you’re glad to do it, sometimes you want to quit.
“Sometimes I feel pity, and five minutes later I’m angry,” says Stella Langford, of Tinley Park, Ill. Her husband of 40 years, Bruce, has advanced dementia, but still lives at home, despite the challenges.
“In one day, I’ll go through many emotions. It’s like dealing with children. It’s exactly the same,” she adds. “It definitely tires you out. I resent that my body has run down. I can’t do what I used to do. That bothers me.”
One aspect of the constant care that really gets to her is the lack of solitude. She can’t sit down with a cup of tea and just enjoy the quiet because there’s constant action, some of it bizarre. She’s cried — a lot.
Langford’s situation isn’t unusual for a caretaker. The range of emotions is similar to that described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in dealing with grief. It’s not a smooth transition from one to the other until you come out the other side. It’s more like a roulette wheel, with many possible outcomes on any given day.
One constant is that it’s important to remember that you, too, are important. Your allowed to have emotions, good and bad.
Your emotions can arise from trying to do it all, feeling slights from others who don’t do enough, unfair criticism, lack of sleep, loss of time with friends, losses of ability (as in dementia), and bristling at suggestions from others of better approaches.
The first thing to realize, Langford suggests, is that you can’t juggle all the balls successfully all the time. You’ll make mistakes; you might fall short on one goal over the course of one day. You have to realize that you’re doing your best — and that you deserve time, too.
It’s important to remain open-minded. Besides learning as much as you can, find other caregivers to give and get support. That can go a long way toward alleviating the loneliness and isolation you may feel.
You should encourage you’re loved one’s independence to the extent possible. You don’t have to do everything — and he or she may not want you to do everything. You can find many enabling tools and technologies that allow a person who needs help to remain more independent.
Know your limits. You should be realistic about how much of your time and efforts you can give. Set clear limits. Tell doctors, family members, and other people involved in the situation about them.
Get professional therapy if you get stuck on specific aspects of caretaking or have recurring negative feelings that have you in a rut. Sometimes all it takes is an objective listener who understands when and how to give advice.
Accept those feeling and don’t beat yourself up. They are difficult emotions to handle, so give yourself the right to feel and accept them. It’s okay to be angry sometimes. Sometimes it’s even helpful.
“You can’t look back much,” Langford adds. “I’ve found that a lot of (caregivers) do that. You have to look forward and stay in the present. As they say, one day at a time. I’ve made a lot of friends, and many are pretty darned amazing. It’s not a time to lay down and die.”
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- Caregiver Action Network
- Well Spouse Association
- ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN