Caregiving for your senior parent or spouse can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be a demanding one that oftentimes challenges your deepest emotions. This is especially true when the senior you are caring for has dementia or a life-limiting illness. The stress that can come along with being responsible for your loved one’s safety and well-being is nothing short of significant, and can trigger a range of very challenging emotions, including guilt, fear, frustration, and sadness.

Fear and sadness about the future often go hand-in-hand. As a caregiver, you are witnessing the decline in a person who has been a pivotal part of your life. That isn’t easy. Not knowing what they will need from you next or what tasks you may be required to perform can cause anxiety as well.

Guilt is also common. When a spouse or an adult child (caregiver) thinks they’ve made a mistake or missed something important, the guilt can be overwhelming. When you resent how caregiving has taken over your life, which is a natural emotion, the guilt can linger long after your caregiving days are over.

Here are a few of the emotional struggles that caregivers often describe:

  • Resenting the time it takes to care for their family member
  • Feeling upset at having to miss out on family gatherings or time with friends
  • Comparing themselves to other caregivers who seem to be “better” at tending to their loved one’s needs
  • Experiencing frustration toward the senior being cared for despite understanding no one has control over their illness or needs

Here are a few tips for managing the rollercoaster of difficult emotions family caregivers experience every day:

Acknowledge your feelings

The first step in managing difficult caregiver emotions is to acknowledge your feelings. Whether it is guilt or sadness or fear, admit how you feel. Once you acknowledge these feelings, try to understand where they came from. It’s okay to admit, for example, that you might just be worn out and need a little break for some self-care. While it may not make your guilt go away entirely, you might find that it does bring you back some peace and replenish your spirit.

Join a caregiver support group

Support groups can be an effective way to learn how to manage your challenging emotions. If you’ve never been a caregiver before, you may have never felt these emotions either. Support groups enable you to connect with fellow caregivers in person or online. Not only will you learn from others’ experiences, but you will also discover you’re not alone in struggling to navigate these tough times.

Online caregiver support groups might be best for those where time is an issue or when it isn’t safe to leave your senior loved one unattended. Some also find it more freeing to share their true feelings because of the anonymity of an online group.

In-person groups may work best for those who want face-to-face interaction with peers. You can usually find a group to join through a local senior center or Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

Take advantage of respite care

Respite care provides caregivers relief on a short-term basis. It can be a lifesaver for those who don’t have friends or family with whom to share caregiving duties. This service can be utilized for a few days or weeks depending on the senior living community.

Respite guests in a senior living community receive the same care and support as long-term residents. They also enjoy well-balanced meals and access to a variety of life enrichment activities each day.

Each of Nightingale’s four assisted living communities offer respite services for exactly this reason. Reach out to us and let us know how we can help you.

Ask for help

One final suggestion is to be willing to ask for and accept help. Family caregivers often make the mistake of thinking they can do everything. But, caring for a loved one is nearly impossible to do alone. Trying to do so can lead to chronic stress and caregiver burnout. It’s important to give yourself permission to seek help.

Nightingale Healthcare is a privately held, family-owned healthcare management company located in picturesque Bellingham, Washington. Founded in 2014, it has been our mission to serve the communities in which we are located with superior skilled nursing and assisted living services. Our patient-centered approach to care incorporates individualized care plans alongside an unmatched level of compassion, patience, and love.

We proudly operate nursing communities throughout Washington and Oregon. For more information about our nursing communities and the services we provide, please visit our website or contact Nightingale Healthcare directly at 360-656-6609.