Whether you become a caregiver gradually or suddenly due to a crisis, or whether you are a caregiver willingly or by default, many emotions surface when you take on the job of caregiving. Some of these feelings happen right away and some don’t surface until you have been caregiving for a while. Whatever your situation, it is important to remember that you, too, are important. All your emotions, good and bad, about caregiving are not only allowed, but valid and important.
Many feelings come up when you are caring for someone day in and day out. Many caregivers set out saying, “This won’t happen to me. I love my mother, father, husband, wife, sister, brother, friend, etc.” But after a while, the “negative” emotions that we tend to want to bury or pretend we aren’t feeling come up. Caregivers are often reluctant to express these negative feelings for fear they will be judged by others (or judge themselves) or don’t want to burden others with their problems.
If you don’t deal with ALL of your emotions, they can be like a two-year-old who wants your attention: they will keep tugging at you until you stop and acknowledge them. Not paying attention to your feelings can lead to poor sleep, illness, trouble coping, stress eating, substance abuse, etc. When you admit to your feelings, you can then find productive ways to express them and deal with them, so that you and the care receiver can cope better in the future.
Adapted from a fact sheet that was prepared by Family Caregiver Alliance and written and reviewed by Donna Schempp, LCSW.