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How to Cope with 3 Common Caregiver Frustrations

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Caring for your parents or another loved one can offer rewards beyond what you can imagine. But that doesn’t mean your caregiving life remains free from frustrations that range from large to small. You may at times find yourself feeling irritated with your loved one or resentful of family members who refuse to help you. If you have these feelings, you’re not alone. The following quotes are from real family caregivers in the Alzheimer’s community. Hear what they have to say about their caregiving frustrations, and try some of the suggested solutions.

UNHELPFUL FAMILY MEMBERS

“I have 2 siblings who live in the area and two out of state. My mother has lived with me going on 3 years. Not once has either local sibling offered to take mom out, take her to supper, or take her for the weekend. They begrudgingly take her when I ask months in advance.”

“I have three other siblings that do not care to help with her care. I work full time and have a daughter graduating high school this year. I try to show my daughter patience and care in taking care of mom but it isn't easy.”

Solutions to try:

FREQUENT CRYING AND MOOD CHANGES

“My mom has been at my house for 3 weeks now and at times has forgotten who I was and she cries most of the day. How do I cope with the daily changing of her personality without losing my mind?”

“Mom also has been crying a lot at night lately. She says she misses her mother and a baby she lost (at 3 months old) back in the 60's. I don't know how to handle her when this happens. Mom cried for 40 minutes the other night.”

Solutions to try:

HOW DO I GET MOM TO SHOWER?

“I have the challenge of getting my mom to shower. She is wheelchair bound but can transfer to a chair we have in the shower. She wants only sponge baths, and it is the topic of disagreement often. She has some minor dementia. Help!”

“What do I find most frustrating? So many situations to choose from...let's see. I think it is the showering/bathing. She gives us lip service EVERY TIME!!! She says, ‘I’m not dirty,’ ‘I just did this today,’ or ‘I know what u r up to?’ And she wants to wear her depends and slippers in. It is such a struggle.”

Solutions to try:

What are your best tips and tricks for helping to overcome these common caregiving issues? Please share your solutions in the comments section below!

Last revised: August 11, 2014

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. October 22, 2015 at 12:09 pm | Posted by Kathy

    Here I am back again ... seems this page doesn't get any attention but I am writing anyway to vent ... I am sick with diverticultis ... 2nd bout since June ... don't believe I ever healed from June ... I am scheduled to see a surgeon on Monday ... and I am sitting here in tears again ... frustrated .. and feeling ashamed ... my husband with MCI "helps" with cleaning up the kitchen and dishes but it really isn't clean ... can't tell you how many times I reach for something from the cabinet only to find food caked on it ... today he washed my food processor by hand and it was in the dish drainer with food still in the bottom of it ... this bout landed me in the ER a few days ago and I am on my 3rd round of Augmentin since June ... I have little to no energy ... I am using the food processor to puree my food to hopefully make it easier for my colon to heal ... I am tired of being strong ... and wonder when will it be my turn to have someone take care of me when I am sick ... when I don't have to think ... I am a one man band here and have been for years ... we have a daughter who is single and bipolar and helps as she can but her time is limited and sometimes just has her own issues to deal with ... I feel like a single mother who has no babysitter to help ... if my husband was a child I could ask someone to take him for a while ... but I don't have that luxury with an adult man who is not very social ... and no one really wants to deal with him anyway ... we live 900 miles from any relatives so no hope of any of them traveling to help out ... sorry for my pit party ... I am just tired of being strong ... guess it is a good thing I am just writing into cyper space where no one is listening ...

    Reply

    • October 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Wow, Kathy! You have a lot going on, and I am so sorry you feel like you're doing it alone. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

      Reply

    • January 23, 2016 at 10:01 am | Posted by D eAnn

      Ive suffered with stomach disorder for years and feel your pain I was poisoined a few years ago and now I'm much better I used aloevera juice ginger root raw beets and juice and teas with antioxidents along with boost and ensure..while taking care of my non walking disabled husband It was never easy and I still have flares along with other disabilities...but I feel 100 percent better and healthier then I did when my disability with my stomach started...hang in there pace yourself and heal yourself your family needs you so you have to focus on yourself first in order to help anyone else..

      Reply

  2. May 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Posted by Kathy

    I am in that position right now ... my husband has MCI due to Parkinson's ... but no matter the cause the result is the same ... I am thankful he doesn't have severe dementia as I am having trouble at times coping where we are now. I just came in from outside ... experiencing frustration ... he drove to the store to get my mulch and then stacked all ten bags of mulch on top of each other ... good job, right? In some ways yes ... but hiscognitive issues did not caution him as to what the consequences would be if he stacked them too high with out a wall or a fence behind it for support ... instead they toppled over in the breeze we are having right onto my flower bed and smashed some newly planted black eyed susans ... just when I start to get ahead ... something like this happens and the frustration and tears rare their ugly head. I told him it wasn't him I am frustrated with but this darn disease ... somehow I have to learn how to deal with frustration. Right now I am writing thru tears as I so wish we didn't have this to deal with.

    Reply

  3. March 16, 2015 at 9:53 am | Posted by Dream Yvonne J. Perkins

    I have had an extended, enduring, and conflicting dispute with HomeInstead for far too long. One of their workers flooded my basement while doing laundry and on duty caring for me in my home. HomeInstead refuses to take the responsibility in getting my flooded basement back to the living quarters I once proudly had. I am a disabled senior and am certain this large company has insurance to cover such accidents caused by their employees. Instead, they terminated my services because of a minor incident in which I was not at home when one of their workers arrived. Attending an emergency appointment they terminated me in an instant without giving me the fair opportunity to explain my situation. All of this was a cover up not to accommodate me in repairing my basement which is their vicarious liability to do so. They think I will go away and sweep my desperate concerns under a rug. I WILL NOT!!! I will see them in court first! As a disabled senior this incident has caused me undue stress, depression, mental anguish, and extreme physical hardship.What would you do if a company destroyed your home, frivolously terminated your services, and refused to acknowledge or pay for the damages?PRINT THIS FOR ALL CONSUMER SUGGESTIONS!!!

    Reply

  4. February 8, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Posted by Tgoble

    I am 27 and caring for my mother with dementia snd my daughter that is 16 months old. It is very overwhelming and I feel that my time is not spread evenly. I love my mom dearly but constantly think that I should be creating my family and having more children at this point in my life not caring for my parents...isn't that awful :(

    Reply

    • May 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Posted by Sheila

      No it's not terrible! My kids are grown but I still find myself feeling resentful of having to take care of my Mom who has Parkinson's. My kids have started their own lives and I was hoping to be able to do somethings that I had missed out on while raising my kids and now I've been shoved into this role! I love my Mom but she never had to do this for her parent's!

      Reply

      • July 10, 2015 at 2:55 am | Posted by Katharyn Little

        Don't forget the sacrifice she made for you, and the ones you probably won't ever know. One day you'll realize you didn't miss out at all. Compassion, love and faith will be rewarded in your everlasting life. This is just the beginning your next life will be better than you can imagine if you get this one right. I know its hard so your in my prayers. God bless you.

        Reply

        • August 11, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Posted by chris

          don't forget the sacrifice? wow! are you doing the same? you have no idea how hard it is when you are the only one doing all of the work with no rest and a job to go to. you probably say "it's god's will" and you'll be rewarded someday" blah blah blah

          Reply

  5. November 28, 2014 at 11:02 am | Posted by P.J.A.

    I have been a caregiver with a large company for over 6 yrs. now. I guess that I had no idea about the seriousness of aging especially with Dementia or Alzheimer's. I now know that caregivers for family or others is just as hard of a job that parenting is. I give everyone who does this as a job or for someone they care about a saint, if they are truly doing their best then they are TRULY an angel (man or woman)! Patience is absolutely necessary when doing this and remember it could just as easily be us going through it, and that is why I give 110% of my heart in this job. I also have an aging mom with ailments, and a daughter in her first year of college (in another state far away). Please try to be empathetic and patient, I take a few deep breathes when I get stressed and think of what if it were me as the patient or client? I just have to say thanks to all of us and yourselves for doing what you have to do for your loved ones. In the end you will be a better person inside for it, and you can go without being guilt ridden for the rest of your life! Thanks for reading this and good luck to all!

    Reply

    • January 23, 2016 at 10:04 am | Posted by D eAnn

      Amen from another care provider who agrees...it is hard to be on task all the time...but I give my best...for as long as I'm able take a break an d start again...Thanks for your post.

      Reply

  6. November 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Posted by James

    Mom has lung cancer and type 6 ataxia. I live with her and I do ever thing around the house cook clean and do laundry. Sometimes it's hard cause I also have to work. Hospice is coming in now but I never get anytime for myself.....what about my grief and sadness. I know she is the one sick but I need a life also.

    Reply

  7. October 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Posted by Donna Stolasz

    Hi, I am dealing with my husband 71 who has moderate dementia from Ahlz. He gets mad about every little thing that happens in his day it seems. His anxiety levels are high and when I am driving he is terrible. Yelling & telling me "your going to get us killed" He has an appt. with his neuro MD 11/3, I will ask him for something to calm him & me down too! I know he doesn't mean to be this way, but sometimes my patience runs out, and I try to just walk away till I cool down, or cry my eyes out..anyone out there have a spouse who has dementia?? I would love to hear from you & thanks. Donna S!

    Reply

    • November 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Posted by Cheryl

      Donna I am starting this journey with my husband as well. My husband is 72 and has had delusions and confusion. He has had times when he doesn't know who I am and thinks that I am trying to poison his food or that I am cheating on him with an invisible man in our bed. I understand how you feel. My husband of 13 years has never said a mean word to me until this past year. It is like being stabbed in the heart.I didn't get any help from his neurologist. We finally got help from a geriatric psychiatrist. I would suggest making an appointment with one of those doctors.You are not alone and your husband is not mad at you, he is mad at the illness that is changing him in a way that he doesn't want to change.

      Reply

  8. September 6, 2014 at 12:35 am | Posted by Lynda Dawson

    Thank you, Mary, for your thoughts, suggestions, and obvious affection for the people with whom you work. Last night, when I was sleeping, you were still awake writing your response to others. You are truly a "care giver".

    Reply

  9. September 5, 2014 at 10:36 am | Posted by Irene Serwa

    Dear Mary, Although it is difficult, resign yourself to the fact that your brother is not going to change. While your Mom is still mobile, take her to your brother's home. Let him spend quality time with her while you try to take time for yourself. You are going to have to have a sit down with your brother as your Mom's condition become worse. With guys you can't expect them to understand. I had my Mom for 6 years. When I started to feel sick, I just packed her up and took her to her home where my single brother lives. Everyone was angry. But 3 weeks later I suffered a heart attack, my 3rd. My brother has become an unbelievable caregiver. His patience and understanding of her needs is incredible. Do not shortchange yourself. What would happen if you got sick or passed away? You need to be there for your children most importantly.

    Reply

  10. September 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Posted by D jean Day

    I have my 93 year old mother for 8 years,she is usually easy to get along with,she has dementia,I feel so guilty at times as I resent her,she is wheelchair bound,and has to be lifted around,I have never lost it with her,I go outside and scream and come back in and face it again, I say the serenity prayer every day.

    Reply

  11. September 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Posted by Faye Scott

    My 89 year old sister-in-law lived with us for four years until I got sick and could not care for her. During this time, I learned to Pray a lot, and meditate a lot. Spent time alone in my bathroom reading the Bible . I also learned not to answer everything she said and when she asked some " off the wall" question...just say " maybe". We have to remember we might someday be in the same shape and do as we hope someone will do for us.

    Reply

  12. September 4, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Posted by Linda

    The hardest but most important thing to remember when taking care of loved ones with medical and mental conditions is that they are probably a thousand times more frustrated than you are. They are trapped with bodies and /or minds that don't work like they used to and they have to rely on someone else for the simplest things. As my Mom would tell you "this getting old crap sucks". On the days when I cannot stand the pressure for another second and just want to walk away; I try to see things from her position and I pray that whoever is taking care of me would not walk away. The whole process is a balancing act and you won't always keep all the balls in the air but this is what love is about. My heart goes out to all the LOVE PROVIDERS dealing with aging parents/family. We are essential to their wellbeing!

    Reply

    • July 10, 2015 at 3:07 am | Posted by Katharyn Little

      I would love for it if the non present family members understood this. I am the lucky one. I get to spend lots of time with my Mom and she will never wonder if I loved her and I want have regrets. I make it a point to tell her all the time. And I also am my husbands caregiver. It's very overwhelming and most of the time I can't give them both everything they need. I just hope it's enough.

      Reply

  13. September 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Posted by Charmayne Brown

    My mother has been living with me for 9 years. She was diagnosed with Dementia in April 2012. Before her diagnosis, I was tending to all of my mother's entertainment and taking her on vacations with my husband and children since my children were young, which is since 1989. Now that my mom is ill and I am her caregiver, because she lives in the house, it is becoming a strain. She is enrolled in a day program but I have to tend to her daily needs every day. I also have a 13 year old son who is mildly autistic. My brother lives in the city and has no children and is not in a relationship. When I call on him to help, he comes by and will do very very minimum, give my mum her tablets and give her dinner. Once in a while! I would love for him to take her out for dinner and keep her out for a stretch of time, or take her for the weekend, so I can spend quality time with my family. I have been looking after my mother for over 20 years now, in terms of entertaining her and tending to her needs. I am growing increasingly resentful and exhausted now.

    Reply

  14. August 17, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Posted by Danielle Jackway

    My mom is in rehab after a stoke and she is so stubborn and calls us complaining that we put her there. So frustrating getting call from her we visit all the time but its not good enough for her. I cant handleher aattitude anymore.

    Reply

    • September 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Posted by Cheri

      I have been taking care of my wheelchair bound father who is 90 years old now for the last five years. He was disabled by strokes in 2003. One thing it took me years to realize is he isn't the same man as before the strokes. Strokes are a form of brain injury. Some people make a complete recovery following mild strokes but others have permanent damage. My dad fell into the latter category not only physically but mentally. He gets angry very easily now and can be paranoid as he sometimes accuses me of abusing him. He is also diabetic so we see his doctor every 3 months and he can verify my dad isn't being abused. Unfortunately my dad suffered permanent damage to his brain which altered his emotions, his character and his ability to reason. He literally can't help it. Once I realize d this it made coping with the tantrums and unreasonable behavior easier for me. I do the best I can but somedays it still overwhelms me. I have learned to walk away and take a time out for me. Maybe try talking to her doctors to get a better understanding of how this has impacted your mom, not just physically but mentally. I hope this helps.

      Reply

  15. August 13, 2014 at 12:59 am | Posted by Sandra

    My Mom has been in my home for less than a week....and is driving me crazy.Because of her stubborness, she fell near her FL home, ended up with a broken rt. ankle & broken rt. wrist & off to the FL RN home to recoup. What was a planned 3 wk trip to help out (prior to her accident), turned into a 3 month stay, with me handling everything to make the move. I'm still exhausted. We finally flew home the end of May.She's just been discharged from a nearby RN home, following her 100 day stay. She is extremely negative and wants to bicker about everything. It's her way or the highway. I thought she would mellow out. HER friends have commented to me about stubborness & caution me to take care of myself. I'm an only child.I wanted her to move into our home, long before her accident, when both my parents were living & she was driving. Now, I believe she's frustrated and unhappy and refuses to take any med that might help. The past few days have been horrible and I don't see any improvement. I've scheduled an appt. with her new (geriatric) MD for tomorrow....hoping a chat with him will help us both.I'm betting everyone has gone through this adjustment period. I really resent her attitude and stubbornness & can't seem to get her out of this routine. I'm dealing with a 90 year old spoiled toddler, having an on-going temper tantrum. She was living independently & driving herslef an hour into town, before her fall injuries, which are major. She is finally walking with a walker & slowly becoming more independent. I know it will take a long time to recover.Any suggestions for me? I already have a pacemaker and hope that will prevent me from giving myself a stroke :) I've already had cancer at 18......I have tons of empathy, but my patience is wearing thin.Suggestions???

    Reply

    • September 4, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Posted by Mary

      First, having lived and worked through like experiences, I can tell you that when it's all said and done, you will know you've done what you can. Bless you for returning the love and patience to your mom. Caring for our loved ones in this time is a major role reversal. Just as a loving mother shows miraculous patience with her young child, so we must return that patience as they age... When we do it with love we get a much better response than when we are frustrated.Then, imagine how frustrated you would be if most of the control of your life was removed from your power. Even though she may (if she's not dealing with dementia issues) realize it's not your fault--she's lost control and you're making the decisions. When you can, let her choose. It may be simple things like what she wears for the day, whether she watches the news orJeopardy, pasta or hamburgers--but it's the ability to have some control or something and not be treated like a child. Obviously, if she is dealing with dementia issues, make the choices simple (between A and B) because if you add more, the fact that she can't remember all of them will be just another source of frustration. If she can't remember even A or B, then show her, for example shirt A in the left hand and shirt B in the right hand--seeing them helps them not forget. Sometimes they become masters of deception--they can't remember, and their anger is just a mask because they are too proud to say "I don't know what you said."Next, it's amazing how much our body language and facial expressions affect the responses we receive. After caring for my mother before she passed, I worked with HI for a couple of years while having multiple kids in college. I learned some very helpful tools in their training. First, try not to stand directly in front of your loved one, but instead make a conscious effort to stand off to the side and lower yourself so she is slightly taller than you are. (This takes away the natural instinct that you were trying to overpower or control them. Sounds funny, but I had a patient who socked me multiple times every day until introduced to this technique and after utilizing this I rarely got hit again.) Start by using a pleasant tone, using either "Mom" "Dad" or their first name, and then speaking. If they suffer from dementia, you may have to do this each time you speak because they "forget" they like you. You have to add that layer of "comfort" each time. Now if they are very sharp, the repetition may anger them--you just have to do trial and error, and be fluid--change as they need you to, but don't change what works.Don't underestimate the power of music. Find music that bring s them joy. It can totally change their mood.Showers or baths--most elderly don't like cold, and I can guarantee you that your cold is different from theirs. A draft is very uncomfortable for them, and we may think it's refreshing. Make the bathroom warm enough that they don't feel the draft. Put a towel in the dryer to warm and use it to cover them so they feel the cozy warmth as they dry. Often they will avoid at all costs--I found writing "Bath Day" or "Shower Day" on the calendar was helpful. As they crossed off each day of the week so they "knew" what day it was, they could see it coming. For one lady, making a hair appointment every two weeks helped in a couple of ways. First we could say we have to bathe so she was all clean for her hair appointment, and next, after getting her hair "done" like the old days, she just felt (and looked) good. And when we look good, we feel good. :-)Do things together that aren't about "duty." Look through old photo albums and talk about the old days. Talk about what they miss--and yes, it may be that spouse who passed and they get sad--but turn it around and ask what their best times were, or a great vacation they took, or what made their love last. Often those memories will bring a smile and make the conversations turn to "the good times."Even through the toughest of times, the patience and love you extend to your mom is a great way to thank her for giving you life. She may feel "useless" and that frustration exhibits itself as "crabby," but I can assure you that even if she is not able to "do" anything, there is a purpose to her existence. And yes, take time for you--it will make you a better CareGiver. I think I learned the most from those I cared for who had Alzheimer's. Sorry my response is so long; I hope some tidbit here is helpful...

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      • October 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Posted by Astor

        Bless you, Mary. You have helped me. :)

        Reply

      • October 17, 2014 at 11:07 am | Posted by Carol

        Mary, your reply was long but it was very helpful. You are very compassionate in your suggestions. One tip I believe is important is that bathing is not necessary every day. Too much emphasis on that is very irritating to elderly people. Bathing in sections is also helpful so that the whole body is not bare at the same time. Sitting on stool in tub or shower and covering upper then lower section feels better and safer. It feels cold to be uncovered even if room is warm. Anything which helps the person to feel they are maintaining their privacy or dignity is helpful.

        Reply

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