The Emotions Behind Caregiving

Caregiving is emotional.
How to handle the emotional changes for caregivers and carees.


Whether you are the caregiver or the caree, there are a lot of emotions tied to caring for someone or being the person who needs care. Understanding what you are each going through can help you both accept and move forward.




Both the caregiver and caree can experience sadness during the caregiving journey. The caree may mourn the body or mind that they used to have. It can be difficult to accept that you can’t do all of the things you used to do. It can also be hard to have to rely on your child, or other family members.


The caregiver can also feel sadness about the person their parent or spouse has become. It is difficult to see a loved one struggle. There is also sadness about the new role of caregiver. Becoming someone’s caregiver is very rewarding, but it is also a huge sacrifice. Free time will become a luxury and the financial and emotional toll is high.




A caree may resent their caregiver for a number of reasons. They can resent that their child or spouse is telling them what to do or handling tasks that they previously handled. They can resent the situation. No one wants to become dependent on someone else. They can also resent that it changes their role in the relationship and how it makes them feel.


A caregiver can also experience resentment that they no longer have the freedom to go away or check out. They may resent that there is so much on their plate and they are under a lot of stress. They can also resent the financial toll or the impact caregiving has on their career or social responsibilities.




If someone is experiencing sadness and resentment, it may turn to anger, particularly if it is a long-term lifestyle change. Anger is a common expression of grief, which both caregivers and carees go through as life as they know it is altered.



Coping with Emotional Challenges

While it isn’t easy to move past sadness, resentment and anger, if you are in a long-term caregiving relationship for someone you love, it is critical to your relationship that you do. Once you understand why the person is lashing out or handling the transition badly, it can be easier to not take things so personally.


Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your situation, work together to accept it and create a new normal. For example, if your mother is grieving over the fact that she can no longer prepare her favorite meals and her way of expressing it is to criticize your cooking, have her guide your cooking. Sit together and go over her recipes, or bring her into the kitchen to walk you through her preparations. Yes, it can take more time and we don’t always have a lot of time, but she’ll feel like she has more to contribute and more value.


Try to bring some joy and play into your new situation. Your caree may be focused on all of the negative aspects of his or her health and you may be bogged down in running two families, which can feel depressing. Bringing some fun and humor into your situation will help you both feel better.


Give each other space. You and your parent probably have not spent this much time together in a long time. Your parent has been living alone for some time and you have set up your own life. Blending the lives of independent adults is difficult. Give each other some space. Read a book in your room or set up a TV in your parent’s room. You don’t need to be together every minute of every day.


Respect your parent’s routine. If you have become a morning person but your dad likes to stay up late watching movies and wake up around 11 a.m., don’t go bursting into his room at 8 a.m. encouraging him to join you for breakfast. Obviously, you are not a diner serving up meal at all hours of the day, but prepare something that can keep and leave it for him to enjoy when he is ready. If medication is an issue, discuss his schedule with his doctor to be sure pushing back the day to accommodate his schedule is safe.


Understanding where you are each coming from and respecting each other’s needs can make your caregiving journey run smoothly.



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