Mid – Island Family Caregiver’s Network
The following excerpt was taken from the Caregiver’s Survival Guide. It includes many details, but hopefully may leave you with the sense that you are not alone.
The Perspective of the Person Receiving Care
Like you, the person you are caring for is experiencing a wide range of emotions due to the changes and losses he/she is experiencing. In order to understand these emotions fully, you need to know what they may be.
As a normal adjustment to new health concerns, the person you are caring for may experience:
- A sense of losing control over their life because of their condition – in an attempt to try to maintain control, they may resist your attempts to care for them. This is a common reaction to the loss of independence;
- Sadness from a changed self image;
- Fear of becoming dependent and a burden to the family;
- Fear that old friends will distance themselves;
- Anger and frustration towards their condition (which can at times be misdirected);
- Denial of the condition or its lasting effects;
- Fear of becoming isolated from the world, since they may no longer be able to get around as easily as they once did.
With time and support, your loved one will adjust to their new situation. Encourage them to get involved in something outside the home such as a Day Program, support group or leisure activity. This can provide an outlet for their emotions and can help them feel less alone and helpless.
Dealing with Your Emotions
As a new caregiver, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. In order to get through this time of transition, it is important that you understand and deal with them effectively.
You may experience:
- Depression and resentment over loss of income, social activities, freedom, privacy, companionship, sexuality, and loss of your loved one’s contributions;
- Anger and frustration with the illness/condition for forcing you into this new caregiver
- Role and for putting your future plans on hold;
- Anger and frustration with your family and friends who may have conflicting ideas about what you should be doing;
- Feelings of being alone and uncertainty about becoming a caregiver;
- Guilt for feeling angry and resentful when you are healthy and your loved one is ill or for not living up to unrealistic expectations.
You may feel:
- Good about the contribution that you are making, know that you are doing the best that you can and do not hold onto feelings of guilt as they only wear you down.
- Pride in all that you have accomplished.
- An improved ability to reach out and be sensitive to someone else’s needs.
- A new sense of strength in watching your family pull together.
- Pleasure in maintaining your loved one’s dignity and comfort.
- Gratitude for the blessing of having developed a closer more intimate relationship with the person you are caring for.
As you can see, your feelings can be very complicated and overwhelming. The first step in dealing with them is to allow yourself to feel and express the full range of your emotions. They are all valid. Denying your feelings most often leads to negative outcomes. Caregivers need to express their feelings in a safe environment where they will not be judged. Only by acknowledging and expressing feelings openly can we begin to deal with them.
What can you do to help yourself deal with these emotions?
- Accept your emotions for what they are.
- Find support that works for you such as
- Talking to your case manager, therapist, social worker, physician;
- Talking to another caregiver;
- Getting help from community resources; or
- Talking to friends, family members or spiritual advisor you are close to.
Be open to expressing your feelings in other ways too. Paint, pray, sing, cry, laugh, write or exercise. Release your feelings in a way that best suits you.