Anger: A caregiver’s double-edged sword
caregiver anger

Here’s a series, which we’ll revisit from time to time. It has to do with very common and natural emotions that we all experience in our daily lives, as close to “normal” as they are. But if it’s safe to say that caregiving is a special scenario for which most of us enter ill prepared, then a strong emotion like anger has a chance to get the better of us. Anger is natural and dealing with it is really critical to everyone’s well being. When you’re tending to someone else’s illness, it’s easy to feel like everything is about them, not you. To a large extent, that’s the reality of what you’re involved in. But it is a two-way street where your ability to cope benefits both the patient and yourself. Accepting that fact can help ease hurt feelings. Anger is a natural reaction to feeling hurt by something, whether rational or not. Maybe you’re frustrated because you feel like your loved one isn’t cooperating with you or because you’re unable to do all the things you want to do for him/her. You may feel that they’re being difficult. You may feel like you’re losing control or that your loved one is using you, controlling you (which may very well be true, since you may be the only thing in their life right now that they feel they can control). For whatever reason, you feel victimized because you’re wrapped up in the day to day squabble their illness.

And it’s okay to feel anger; you’re entitled. But you’re also entitled to have a pleasant life. Understand that anger is actually a predictable response mechanism. While feelings are very real and strong to you, they are reactions to what’s happening around you. Some things can and some things can’t be changed. Once that’s accepted, you may be able to get a better handle on the surroundings and situations, anticipate your reactions and recognize what may trigger feelings of anger inside you. Anger may be a way you’re subconsciously trying to say to yourself that you need to pay better attention to something (like your own well-being, for example). Realize that although you’re in care of another person, it’s that person’s illness (not that individual) that’s creating all these challenges. Try not to channel blame to that person. If you can separate the individual from their condition, you can keep all this from delving into some terribly personal form of hurt.

That hurt can be a double-edged sword, such as when your loved one is angry at you. It’s important to know that this anger may just be a byproduct of their illness. Alzheimer’s patients, for example, can go from once being kind and gentle, to downright violent and paranoid. Again, this is not necessarily the person, it’s their illness or medication overtaking them. They may be depressed, which can manifest itself as complete negativity in how they interact with you. It’s important to remember, this person is sick and their behavior and what they say isn’t necessarily directed at you. Although, if you’ve had an unstable relationship or issues with them in the past, that could be resurfacing now. They’re going through a lot, so you’ll have to have an equal amount of empathy for them. Try to remove yourself from any bad history. Try cooperating with them as a person by allowing them the flexibility to feel for you too. Tell them how you’re feeling but not in way that sounds accusatory, which will worsen the hurt. Let them know you’re trying to make things better. Reassure them that you’re trying to understand what they want or need. You’re in this together.

Here are some suggestions to help keep you in the right frame of mind…

Forgive yourself for not being perfect and able to do everything. You may not be Superman, but you are super.

Written by Arthur Roeser
Arthur retells his story caring for his mother and father, covering many common issues caregivers face through first person narration, such as: hoarding, sibling conflict, parents unwilling to be helped, finances, communication with medical professionals, guilt, anxiety, stress and shame.

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2 Comments

  1. What a great piece. Learning to accept your anger and finding ways to deal with it are so important, but not often talked about which leads to even more stress on the caregiver.

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  2. Great Article. …I really get mad sometimes and this is exactly how I am feeling. When I am able to leave I drive and unwind, turn on my favorite radio station and all my troubles and hurt drain away. When I have to go back, I am in a much better mood and so is he. It takes time to process these emotions.

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