Caregiving Spectrum of Difficult Emotions –
Emotions serve a purpose, they exist, they are real and they are neither bad nor good.
As caregivers many emotions surface, some of these “emotionally charged” and complex feelings come quickly and others come after several months of caregiving. These are difficult feelings to have and many caregivers are very uncomfortable admitting to them and expressing them to others. One message I bring is….you are not alone with these emotional feelings, they are a natural out-pouring of stress and sleep deprivation. Caregiving is a life changing role (one that in many cases we were not prepared for or feel we have the education to step into).
My second message is you must talk about your feelings and find productive ways to manage or cope with them. Here is a list of difficult emotions. Remember feelings are helpful and can be signals to stop and assess what’s going on, determine how you are really feeling and help you make needed changes.
Red – Anger/Impatience – Anger and frustration are normal when caring for someone 24/7. This is especially present when caring for someone with dementia or if the care-receiver is combative or irrational.
Orange – Anxiety/Fear – Feeling that your life is out of control. Not being able to sleep, being restless. The constant worry about “What If”. Feeling totally responsible for all that happens to your care-receiver.
Yellow – Boredom/Loneliness – Maybe this is the first time you feel “stuck” at home and you are not able to pursue your own activities, or you are just too tired at the end of the day. The longer you are a caregiver the more isolated you feel. Feeling you have no one to talk to and feeling friends are no longer willing to hear about your caregiving activities.
Green – Jealousy/Resentment – You feel jealous of family and friends that can continue to go out, and pursue things they enjoy. Resentment comes into play when we did not “choose” to be a caregiver and became one by default. When other family members did not step in to help and we feel under appreciated.
Blue – Depression- Sometimes we have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. We are sad and cry a lot. As caregivers we are at great risk for clinical depression.
Indigo- Guilt – Feelings that we have done something wrong or not doing enough. Sometimes caregivers secretly wish their role of caregiving would end. Other caregivers feel guilty about sometimes putting their own needs first.
Violet – Anticipatory Grief – Loss begets grief. As we care we also watch the decline in our care-receiver, we think about the losses they are experiencing as well as our own losses. Grieving both the present losses but also the future losses.
How do we cope with all the difficult emotions? First we must express the feelings in constructive ways. Stress reduction is key. Physical activity such as walking or relaxing activity and mental activities such as journaling. Talk about your feelings with understanding people (those that have traveled the same journey, a counselor). Give yourself permission to cry. Get support by asking for help, this can be through family, friends, support group or a home care agency. You must take care of yourself, eat well, sleep well and keep up with friends and family. Use respite! Respite is essential for ALL caregivers. This “break time” refreshes and renews a caregivers spirit. Keep hope alive. As Robert Randall said, “A sense of hope is knowing that your present moment has meaning.”
Can anyone share how they have coped with these difficult emotions? Please share them here with our Blog Friends.