The Caregiving Rollercoaster
Caring for an older adult can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride. Much of the time you are filled with joy and pride as you spend time with your loved one. Then there are times when you feel overwhelmed and stressed by the challenges of care giving. Guilt often follows. Then your loved one thank your loved one thanks you for all the work you do and you swell with love and joy once more. These emotional ups and downs often occur during the course of one day. Life becomes a roller coaster ride that doesn’t stop to let you off!
It is normal to experience a large array of emotions when providing care for a loved one. Caregivers who report higher levels of satisfaction have learned the skill of managing their negative emotions. They are also able to focus on all of the benefits of care giving:
- Growing closer to their loved one as they spend time together
- Feeling enhanced self-worth for coping with a difficult situation
- “Repaying” their loved one who used to care for them
- Having an increased sense of purpose in their life and sense of achievement
But no matter how positive a person's negative feelings will still come around. The first step toward managing these feelings is to recognize them before they become problematic.
Some common emotions that creep up on caregivers are frustration, anger, fear and guilt. Some early warning signs of these feelings may be tension, headaches and increased impatience. As soon as you recognize negative feelings heading your way, step back and calm yourself before they take over. The following techniques can be helpful in keeping negative emotions at bay.
- Take some slow, deep breaths
- Look at the event in a different way. Try to understand the other person's’ perspective
- Leave the room for awhile
- Remember the good times
- Understand the issues the care-receiver is dealing with
- Participate in physical activity
- Concentrate on the benefits and rewards of care giving
When you are calm again, think about what triggered the negative emotion and how it could have been avoided. You can use negative feelings as a catalyst for change. You may find you need more respite care, a change in routine, an outlet for emotional needs such as a support group or to distribute tasks to family members. Negative emotions may not be pleasant, but they don’t have to leave you full of anger and rage. Learn to recognize the warning signs , calm yourself and initiate change to prevent it from happening again.
Life for a caregiver is like a roller coaster ride, so buckle up and prepare for a thrilling ride!
Older Americans Act Consultant
Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources
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