Becoming a family caregiver can happen suddenly or gradually. It is often a role that life does not prepare you for. Many family caregivers who have an aging or sick loved one are thrown into this role with no experience and with no guidance. As a result, many unfamiliar fears and uncomfortable emotions can surface, leaving you confused, stressed, and exhausted. In today’s blog, we will go over common emotions and fears that family caregivers experience and talk about how you can manage them. The thing we hope you take away from this blog is that these experiences are very common and you are not alone. Fortunately, resources exist to help you manage your role as a family caregiver.
These are common fears and emotions that caregivers experience:
Guilt: Guilt can arise because you may feel like you are not performing at your best. Other reasons caregivers feel guilt is because they develop anger or frustration toward those they are caring for. We want to remind you that guilt is a normal emotion to experience as a family caregiver. You can manage this by acknowledging what your limits are and being honest about what is too much. Having an honest conversation with yourself or a trusted friend or mental health counselor can help you identify what your limits are. Respect your limits and remind yourself that is okay if you cannot do everything you wanted to at the start.
Anger: This emotion can develop as you come to terms with the reality of your loved one’s situation. It is normal to experience anger as a result of seeing your loved one live with a debilitating condition. It is common to want an explanation as to why something like this would happen. Unfortunately, we may not get that answer. It is important to work through these difficult emotions and toward accepting things as they are currently. While this is not easy, it can help you manage developing anger in the future.
Anxiety: This occurs when we are uncertain of the future or out of control at the present moment. Anxiety can take many forms, such as impaired concentration, fatigue, racing heartbeat, uncontrollable thoughts, emotional outbursts, and so on. The way to get a grip on these emotions is to work on staying present and focusing on what you can control. If your anxiety is overwhelming and impacting your daily life, then it may be a good idea to see a mental health professional.
Sadness: Sadness or feeling down can sometimes be one symptom of depression. Unfortunately, high stress, lack of sleep, and increased anxiety are all risk factors for developing depression. Ways to counter depression include seeing a mental health professional, finding a support group, socializing with friends and family, and exercising.
Feeling Unappreciated: Feeling this way can be a result of your loved one being able to communicate to you how much they appreciate what you are doing for them. This can often be a result of underlying health conditions. Feeling this way can also result from being isolated and being unable to relate your experiences to others around you. One way to counteract this is to join a caregiver support group and talk to people who have the appropriate frame of reference to relate to you. Additionally, try taking a moment to appreciate yourself, and acknowledge what you have accomplished. Reward yourself by doing something you love!