July 9, 2012
Caring for a senior loved one can sometimes seem like a contradiction. Interestingly, research conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network confirms the mixed emotions that characterize this important job. Hiding one’s feelings only complicates the issues, this research confirms.
Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of family caregivers who hide their feelings are overwhelmed, but that same percent of caregivers also feel loved. Or consider this: 64 percent feel anxious while these same caregivers feel satisfied.
Caregiving expert Dr. Amy D’Aprix says caregivers should try to avoid classifying emotions as good and bad. “Just recognizing it’s normal to feel many emotions when you’re a family caregiver helps take the power away from the emotion.”
In her Ask Dr. Amy column, Dr. D’Aprix advises a family caregiver, whose husband has been living with the later stages of pancreatic cancer for a year, to reach out to others as a way to help deal with these varying and sometime conflicting emotions. While the caregiver loves caring for her husband, the lack of any help or even a kindness extended her way has left the caregiver drained.
Dr. D’Aprix notes: “Often with family members, we feel they should step forward without being asked. Yet, having worked for many years with older adults and their families, I can tell you that it is very common for family members to need to be asked to provide assistance.”
The key is to choose your words carefully. “If you all use email, you might do this in a group email. Make sure the tone is friendly and non-accusatory. I find it sometimes helpful to have someone not involved in the situation read the email to make sure it comes across as intended.”
Lack of support can diminish the satisfaction that many caregivers feel in their role of providing support for a loved one, leading to those mixed emotions of caregiving. “I know it can feel frustrating that family members don’t just jump in and provide care,” Dr. D’Aprix explains. “Often, I find family members are shocked that the primary caregiver needs help. They say things such as, ‘I had no idea, I thought they had everything under control!’ I encourage you to ask for help today.”
Dr. D’Aprix shares more insight into the conflicting emotions of caregiving and provides tips for eliminating some of the anxiety of the job.
- U.S. Processing the Mixed Emotions of Caregiving
(PDF 5.8 MB)
- Canadian Processing the Mixed Emotions of Caregiving
(PDF 6.3 MB)
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.