It may sometimes feel like nothing you do for your loved is right and that you can never do enough to please them. The extra trip to the grocery store, the afternoon you took off work to attend another medical appointment has gone unacknowledged, again. You may feel like you give so much but nothing you do is appreciated or valued. Caregiving is a tough job that can sometimes seem like it has few rewards, but when your efforts consistently go unrecognized or even worse, criticized by your loved one, you may find yourself feeling hurt, angry and even resentful. These feelings, if they grow strong enough, may get in the way of your ability to continue to provide care in an objective and compassionate way, and they may also get in the way of your peace of mind. If this is the case, it’s time to talk someone for support. This could be a good friend, a clergy person, or a counselor. The important thing is not to continue to try to manage this alone if you are struggling.
If someone you love suffers from dementia, their reduced cognitive abilities may limit their ability to be self-aware and appreciative of you. In fact, some sufferers of Alzheimer’s or dementia can become overly anxious, distrustful, and say things that feel very hurtful. As hard as it is to remember in the moment, this is not a reflection of you or the quality of your caregiving, it is caused by the changes in your loved one’s brain. Talking to people in similar circumstances can be helpful for venting your feelings and for better understanding how to cope; for example in an Alzheimer’s support group.
If your loved one does not have dementia and it’s possible to talk to them about how their behavior makes you feel, focus on those feelings rather than blaming or judging them. Saying “I’m having a hard time because I am not feeling appreciated for the things I am doing for you” rather than “You never thank me for anything” may make your loved one more willing to hear what you have to say. It’s a door open to talking about what you both need during these challenging times.
There may also be other factors at play in your relationship that you may not be fully aware of. For example, constantly giving without reward may be an old family dynamic playing itself out in a new way. As an adult caregiver, you may be getting back into your childhood role as the pleaser, the fixer, or the “good child.” At first, it feels familiar and comfortable and it’s an easy role for your loved one to let you play. That is, until the resentment sets in. Again, if you think this role is getting in the way of your happiness or peace of mind, seek out the support of a counselor who can help you shift this pattern in your life. It’s never too late to learn news patterns for how we relate to the people we love!
If you are unable to communicate your hurt to your loved one, it may help to call a friend you can vent with and who can remind you of what a wonderful job you’re doing. You can also ask yourself what makes you feel good about what you are doing. As hard as it is to remember sometimes, the truth is that the only person’s behavior you can really control is your own. You may also think about how you want to feel about this period of your life when your caregiving role has ended. If you can say, “I am providing care because this is what I want and choose to do, even if my loved one doesn’t express appreciation” you’ll likely find that your resentment subsides. You will know that, even without the thanks or acknowledgement of your loved one, you are living your life according to your values. And realizing we are choosing to live as we want to live, according to our values, it can help sustain us through many difficult circumstances.
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