Caring for an aging loved one can bring up a wide range of emotions. You may feel sad to see their health decline but honored to have the opportunity to spend so much time with them. Caregiving can be a great source of fulfillment and connection, and it can also be incredibly challenging. One of the most difficult but prevalent emotions you may experience as a caregiver is anger.
Taking care of someone every single day is a stressful job. You mind find yourself getting worked up when the slightest thing goes wrong because you’re just so exhausted. Your loved one’s quirks or habits may become more and more frustrating to you, too. Caregiver frustration is an especially serious concern if your loved one has dementia. Even though you know they aren’t in control of their words or behaviors, seeing their decline can take a toll on your own mental health.
Here Are Seven Tips for Coping with Caregiver Anger and Resentment
1. Forgive yourself for your anger.
Practicing self-compassion is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver to an aging adult. Caretaking is a never-ending responsibility, and everyone who assumes this role experiences stress, frustration, and exhaustion from time to time. No human is perfect, so you have to forgive yourself for your moments of anger.
This doesn’t mean that you should always dismiss your angry outbursts without addressing them. If you’re repeatedly breaking down because of your anger, you should seek support for your own well-being. However, beating yourself up because you’re not in a perfectly happy mood every day will only make you feel worse.
2. Identify your anger style.
Not every caregiver experiences anger in the same way. Understanding your style can help you take preventative measures that will reduce the risk of an outburst. For example, some people have a reactive style. As soon as something frustrating happens, they lash out impulsively at those around them. If you’re a reactive person, learning to pause and reflect for a moment before responding can be helpful.
Others let their rage build up for a long time. They don’t respond outwardly when something upsets them, but they eventually snap. If you’re prone to exploding in anger, focus on finding ways to communicate your frustration before it builds up.
3. Take care of yourself.
As a caregiver, you’re used to devoting your time and energy toward others. However, you have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of your loved ones. When you’re sick or exhausted, you won’t have the mental energy to handle the challenges of caretaking.
One of the most important elements of self-care is getting enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can leave you with a very short fuse. Try to follow a consistent sleeping schedule so that your body gets used to a routine. Also, make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day. Low blood sugar and other nutritional issues can dramatically impact your mood and make it challenging to deal with frustrating situations.
4. Find healthy ways to release your anger.
Reducing your caregiver anger may be your main goal, but avoiding it altogether is impossible. Anger is a normal human emotion. During your experience as a caregiver, you will inevitably feel angry, frustrated, hopeless, or exhausted. When these moments happen, you should have a healthy outlet for releasing the emotions.
Some people find that exercise is an effective way to release stress. Others feel better after venting to a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes, excusing yourself and screaming into a pillow is all you need. Try to find the methods that help you release your caregiver anger so that you don’t direct it toward your loved one.
5. Take a breath.
Caregiver anger and resentment can make you lash out in regrettable ways. When you start feeling angry, taking just a short moment to pause and think can make a dramatic difference. This is especially important if you have a reactive style of anger.
Pausing before responding when you feel angry is easier said than done. When you’re frustrated, you look for an immediate release. Even if pausing and taking a breath feels impossible at first, keep trying. Over time, it will become easier to hesitate before you react.
Some people try taking a step back and counting to 10 when they get angry. This gives you an opportunity to reevaluate what you were going to do or say. As you count or take deep breaths, ask yourself whether your reaction will achieve anything productive or if it will cause distress to someone else.
6. Arrange respite care.
Being a caregiver is a 24/7 responsibility. No one can manage that entirely on their own. If you’re constantly feeling stressed, angry, or frustrated, it’s probably a sign that you need a break.
Respite care provides you with short-term relief so that you can relax and focus on yourself. If you have trusted family or friends nearby, ask them if they can care for your loved one for an afternoon so that you can have a break. If not, tap into community resources. You could contact a local senior center to get connected with respite providers in the area, or you could contact your state’s department on aging or elderly services. Most communities have at least one organization that can help you arrange respite as a caregiver.
7. Talk to a counselor.
It’s completely normal to feel angry from time to time. No one should have to face caregiver anger and resentment every day, though. If resentment is your baseline emotion or you react intensely to the smallest mishaps, it’s time to reach out for support.
Caregiver anger can either be a sign that you’re experiencing burnout or that you’re struggling to cope with your situation. Being a caregiver to your loved one as their health declines can be extremely painful. To protect your own mental health, you have to process these emotions. Counseling can be a great opportunity for you to explore your identity as a caregiver and to come to terms with your loved one’s illness. As you gain a better understanding of your own thoughts and feelings, you may start to see your resentment fade away.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides anger management therapy for older adults. We understand how challenging caretaking can be, and we’re here to offer support as you care for your loved one. Contact us today if you’re interested in counseling for seniors.