Whether your caregiving started gradually or in response to a crisis, all feelings related to caring for a loved one are valid. Try to connect with friends and family who can provide nonjudgmental emotional support.
Join a caregiver’s support group to create meaningful friendships with people who understand the stress and challenges of caring for a sick or disabled loved one.
Caregivers often feel guilty for not being able to do everything they think they should. This may lead to frustration or anger with others who can’t help or aren’t doing enough. It’s common for caregivers to feel frustrated and angry at their loved one’s behavior and lack of control over their illness.
Caring for a loved one takes time away from other activities. This can lead to guilt for not spending as much time with other family members or letting work or social activities fall by the wayside. Some people also feel guilty for moving their loved one into a nursing home or other assisted living facility.
Sometimes, caregivers are so focused on being good caretakers that they overlook their needs and put themselves last. This can be a sign of burnout or depression. Talking with other caregivers or joining a support group can help resolve these issues. It’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to do everything you think you “should” do, and try not to be too hard on yourself when you don’t meet those expectations.
Resentment is an emotion that can trigger feelings of anger, hatred and hostility. It can be fueled by a true injustice or an imagined one. It might be a small irritation, such as a careless comment or the barking of a dog that keeps you awake, or a deep-seated anger over something like racism or religious persecution.
People who experience resentment often cannot forgive and may hold on to anger for long periods. Over time, this can take a toll on their mental and physical health. It can lead to ulcers, heartburn and gastric problems, backaches, headaches, bronchitis, asthma, weight gain and depression.
Family caregivers need to recognize resentment as a negative emotion and seek help to deal with it. This might include counseling or anger management techniques. It might also involve taking a break to recharge and getting support from other family members, respite programs and adult daycare. Often, it helps to talk about your resentment with others in a supportive setting, such as a caregiver support group or a trusted friend who isn’t biased against you.
Loneliness is one of the biggest side effects of caregiving. It can happen when a family caregiver becomes so focused on their loved one that they neglect other aspects of their life, including their friends and community. It’s also common when a caregiving relationship is long-term, and there is no end in sight, especially for family members who care for spouses, partners or parents.
Lonely family caregivers have smaller social networks, lower quality of relationships and less satisfaction with their lives than those who are not lonely. This is primarily due to caregiving-related stressors, although other factors are also relevant.
Caregivers are advised to try to balance their caring role and their own lives by maintaining friendships, attending support groups or taking up hobbies to avoid the negative side effects of loneliness. This may be easier said than done for millions of caregivers who have let their social engagements lapse. However, the consequences of loneliness can be extremely serious, causing depression and a higher risk for health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure or dementia.
Even the most compassionate family caregivers experience feelings of anger and frustration from time to time. When these emotions are paired with resentment, they can become destructive and impact relationships within the caregiving team.
Anger can manifest itself in various ways, from short-tempered reactions (like throwing a temper tantrum) to the silent buildup of frustration stored away until a trigger causes the explosive release. When it does, it may be seen in verbal or physical forms, such as yelling or slamming doors. Sometimes, it is projected toward family members, friends or strangers. This is called “projective anger” and can cause irreparable damage to all parties involved.
Some family caregivers don’t seek help for their anger because they mistake it for abuse and believe that if they tell someone they feel this way, they will be labeled as an elder abuser. But, if anger is an ongoing problem as a family caregiver, it may be a sign that you must contact a professional counselor or find a support group.
Caregiving is a big responsibility, and placing other people’s needs above your own can be easy. This is normal, but if these feelings continue to impact your daily life and quality of care for others, it may be time to seek help for anxiety and depression.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that different situations can trigger. It can be a normal reaction, but it becomes a disorder when the concern is irrational or overwhelming, preventing you from sleeping, eating, socializing, or even leaving your home.
Caregivers often feel guilty about asking for help or fear their loved one will not receive the best care if they are not present. However, accepting help from friends and family is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a way to show your loved one that you care about their health and well-being, and it can relieve some of the stress and pressure you are under. Setting small weekly goals to care for yourself can give you a burst of energy that helps you carry on.