On Long-Term Caregiving: Emotional Stress
This is an article in a series about long-term caregiving.
Long-term caregiving stresses us physically, and we live with fatigue. It also stresses us mentally, as we must remember many important things and sometimes our memory fails us.
And, it stresses us emotionally. We can be surprised by emotional reactions that suddenly come upon us. For example, impatience from ongoing delays in what we have to do. Such as waiting for the busy doctor to see our loved one. Or, the sitter who is late. Or, slow grocery line. Full parking decks. Congested traffic. Waiting for relatives too busy to pitch in regularly.
Impatience and also the frustration that together can light our short fuse. And we can feel angry. With everything. With everybody. With life itself. And the unfairness of it all.
It can be hard to accept our anger toward the loved one that we are taking care of. Anger because of her or his complaining, or exaggerating petty things, or not doing what the doctor orders. Not cooperating with us. Not helping us in little ways.
And, there can be the emotion of sadness as we see our loved one slowly succumbing to illness in body or in mind. Grief arises from the changes that we can not prevent.
Amid it all, there can be those moments when we feel positive emotions. When our loved one expresses gratitude, and affection, and genuine love, and deep felt appreciation. Moments we feel an unspoken closeness.
Emotions come upon us. We do not choose them. They rise up and take over. Some are good feelings. Some are not. Some are rare. Some are often. All of which are part of long-term caregiving.
Amid the unexpected and mixed feelings that we experience as caregivers, we need to take care of ourselves. We need to talk about our feelings, and about what is happening to us. We need to get relief that comes when we talk. Maybe to a friend. Or, to a counselor. Or, in a caregivers support group. And, always to the ever-present and ever-listening Spirit of God.
About the Author
Hugh Burns is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an ordained clergyman in the PCUSA. Hugh graduated from Presbyterian College and Columbia Theological Seminary. He leads DPC’s Caregivers Support Group and has previously served as a Clinical Chaplain in a mental health center and a hospital. You can reach Hugh by email, at email@example.com.