A caregiver’s journey can be filled with huge challenges, but it also offers rich life-affirming rewards. Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is a pure expression of love that can strengthen your bond with them and create new, more meaningful memories.
But don’t forget that as a caregiver you might experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger and isolation. Luckily, these feelings are perfectly normal and a natural part of being a caregiver.
1. You’ve lost the person you loved.
Whether you’re dealing with grief or loss, there will be times when you want to cry and feel overwhelmed. But don’t let that stop you from being strong and coping with your losses.
Eventually, you’ll feel better and the pain will ease up. But it may take weeks, months or even years for you to come to terms with the fact that your loved one is gone.
You also have to expect that some days will be better than others. This is because you’re experiencing some natural sadness associated with the loss, but if this sadness tips into depression, it can be a lot harder to deal with.
2. You’re lonely.
Most people feel lonely from time to time, especially if they’re in a situation where they’re alone. It can be as simple as a crowded subway car or a busy grocery store, but it can also be more complicated, such as having a difficult relationship or being in the middle of a big life change.
While feeling lonely isn’t always a bad thing, prolonged loneliness can have negative repercussions, such as poor mental and physical health, depression, or premature death.
You may find it helpful to talk with a trusted family member or a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, about your feelings of loneliness and how to cope with them. They can help you develop coping strategies and teach you ways to build healthy social connections that reduce your loneliness.
3. You’re afraid.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’ve just started out, taking care of an aging loved one is no small feat. Sometimes it feels like you’re juggling multiple balls at once. Even when things are going smoothly, the stress can be overwhelming. The best way to avoid burnout is to get some help and support. Luckily, there are several organizations and services that can point you in the right direction.
You’ll need to be a little bit creative to find the right caregiver for your loved one. However, if you can do that, you’ll be on your way to a happier and healthier life. The best part? You’ll still be able to see and hear your loved ones. Besides, they’ll be there to greet you when you return.
4. You’re angry.
The emotional strain of caring for someone with a medical condition can be as debilitating as the physical challenges. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to find that their emotions are so intense that they lash out at their loved one or even themselves.
As a result, it’s often hard for them to reach out for support. They may feel ashamed or guilty for feeling upset, and they don’t want to risk hurting the person they’re caring for.
But anger can be a normal part of the emotional experience of caregiving, and there are ways to manage it. By knowing your triggers, you can learn healthier ways to respond and regain control of your emotions. You can also take steps to help reduce your stress level and protect yourself from burnout.
5. You’re lost.
The feelings of separation, loss and pain that occur during heartbreak aren’t limited to the death of a loved one; it can be triggered by the end of a relationship, divorce, failure in a business venture or anything else that causes us to feel lost. In fact, this pain, which psychologists call “social pain,” is a biological response to the threat of losing social connection, and it’s likely an evolutionary survival technique that served a purpose back on the savannas where safety depended on numbers.
If you’re feeling lost, it’s important to find ways to re-engage in the things that make you happy. Write a poem, create a memorial, dance your feelings, cry, take a pottery class or do whatever it is you love to do.