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Emotional Rollercoaster of Dementia Caregiving

Did you know?

Many caregivers feel guilty when they feel overwhelmed by this work. Many feel they aren't doing as good of a job as they should. Remember that there is no “correct” way to provide care – you probably know your loved one's needs better than most individuals so find the way that works best for you both.

Given all of the stresses that a caregiver faces, it should be no surprise that a whole host of emotions well up, usually directed towards the situation or even the care recipient: frustration, grief, anger, embarrassment, guilt, worry, and many more. While the links below will provide additional information on each of these emotions and how to address them individually, there are some general tips to dealing with the negative emotions that you face as a caregiver:

Express yourself: Whether you are frustrated to the breaking point or brought to point of tears, allow yourself to express your emotions. You do not have to lash out at anyone, just go out of the room and scream or sit down and have a cry. Bottling up your negative emotions or denying them is never the answer. Sometimes expressing an emotion, such as grief, and followed by listing the things in your life for which you are grateful can be helpful.

Talk to someone honestly about how you feel: In addition to expressing your emotions for yourself, it can help to be honest about your emotions with someone else. Whether in a support group or in a one-on-one conversation, voicing what is troubling you with another person helps. Even if there are no definite solutions, simply sharing means that less of the burden is yours alone. If other solutions are not helping, consider talking to a professional counselor.

Understand your expectations, triggers, and limits: Try to think about why and when negative emotions arise. Are your expectations for yourself, your loved one, and your care for him or her realistic? Are there certain situations that especially try your patience or moments where you know you can no longer deal? Are you taking it personally when your loved one acts out in anger or refuses your help? You may not be able to avoid facing negative emotions, but you can change how you deal with and think about them. Remind yourself that your loved one’s behavior is not personal; it is the disease. Focus on the actions that you can take to make things better in the present moment. Recognize that worry over things you cannot control does not solve anything. If your usual coping mechanisms and the tips found here are not enough, and you find yourself depressed or overwhelmed, consulting your physician or a mental health professional may be a good idea. Sometimes medications, such as antidepressants, may be recommended.
 

Resources

Topic Sheet: Grief, Mourning and Guilt

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This pdf of a handout explores the range of emotions a caregiver might experience, including grief, mourning, and guilt. It also discusses methods to face and to deal with these emotions.

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Caregiver Grief Triggers Mixed Emotions

Source: WebMD
Description: This web page describes the mixed emotions involved in caregiving from the initial diagnosis to the death of a loved one. Coping strategies are also provided.

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Dementia – How it Affects Carers

Source: Better Health Channel (Australia - Victoria)
Description: This web page addresses some of the common emotions that caregivers might feel including guilt, grief and loss, and anger, how it affects you, and what to do and where to go to find help.

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