Caring for an elder loved one is considered a rewarding task by many that take on the challenge. Nevertheless, caregiving is also a very demanding, and oftentimes, stressful endeavor. Stress can be especially high when parents move in with children who are adjusting to a new (and sometimes not-so-pleasant) living arrangement. Yet, a lot of family caregivers tend to be mum about the topic.
This is especially due to the ideal of being able to selflessly care for someone who patiently cared for us when we were younger. However, unaddressed emotions can sometimes fester into feelings of anger, resentment and even hatred—factors that can make caregiving an unpleasant experience, and clearly have a role in elder abuse.
When you accept the role of a caregiver, it is important to constantly self-evaluate and make sure that you are being honest about how you feel in every step of the way. Honesty allows you to keenly identify stressors and emotions, as well as figure out ways of dealing with it. More importantly, regular checks can help us realize when external help or immediate action is necessary.
1. What about caregiving triggers stress for me?
It can be the way that mom asks you the same question five times a day. It may be that sitting down to do your finances leaves you sleepless at night. Be observant of things that cause stress and anxiety. Maybe it’s that you simply can’t deal with the task of bathing mom again. Be painfully honest about your observations, and the emotions that you feel when these situations occur. By coming clean, you can rationally think of steps to address the issues that you are facing.
2. Do you find yourself often angry at your elder or yourself?
Caregiving, sometimes, has the ability to bring out the worst in us. You may feel anger when an elder is being stubborn about doing things her way, or blame yourself for not being there when dad fell and broke his hip. However, anger can be a loaded emotion. A combination of guilt, helplessness, or even feeling cheated can sometimes be uniformly characterized as anger. Writing out what instances, in specific, causes anger can help you understand what you may truly feel and help you resolve your anger issues.
3. Have you developed bad habits since becoming a caregiver?
The stress of caregiving can lead some of us to develop bad habits. Anxiety can cause sleeplessness, which can be both draining and dangerous. Often, in caring for the elderly, some develop emotional eating issues, neglect working out, or turn to smoking after years of quitting. Constant evaluation is a helpful wakeup call to make sure that while caring for your loved one, you are also caring for your own wellbeing, an equally important task.
4. Has being a caregiver detrimentally affected your job and/or personal life?
Emergency trips to the doctor can sometimes mean missing work meetings or a dinner date. When you become a caregiver, it is natural to expect that such situations will occur. Nevertheless, is caregiving causing you to be chronically late for work? Have you had discussions with your spouse about how caregiving is deeply affecting your marriage? Making an inventory of how caregiving negatively affects your life can be uncomfortable, but necessary. By identifying the negative effects, you can take control of the situation, then plan and address what needs to be done. This can mean negotiating with your workplace for flexible hours, or hiring help to make sure that you are on top of your personal commitments-- and avoiding the blame game later on.
Often, when in the middle of the caregiving experience, it is hard for some of us to step back, think clearly and understand how we truly feel. It is normal to feel many emotions, both positive and negative, in the caregiving journey. What’s important, however, is to be honest about feelings and limitations and ask for help when necessary—nobody expects you to do it all.
1st Choice has created a worksheet for identifying dealing with caregiver stressors. In order to be in the proper mindset to articulate exactly how you feel, we recommend that you allot yourself time to do this alone, in a place that you consider peaceful.