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How to Manage the Family Caregiver’s Anger and Frustration

Blog February 10th, 2015

Unsurprisingly, caregivers suffer a great deal of stress and it’s a topic we’ve blogged about ad nauseum. One of their greatest strengths of caregivers also happens to be one of their greatest weaknesses; they are so self-sacrificing that they forget to take care of themselves. And while caregivers are painfully aware of this, non-caregivers are not and it’s those people we want to reach out to because it only takes one traumatic incident to cause the adult child to become the family caregiver of their loved one and they need to prepare.

Trained Caregiver Vs. Family Caregiver

There’s obviously a stark difference in preparedness when it comes to comparing a trained caregiver to a family caregiver. We’ve already discussed how family caregivers perform many of the tasks and duties of fully trained nurses, but one of the things we especially want to help with is managing the emotions that are sure to build up, namely anger and frustration.

You Will Be Angry

You do not need to pretend to be a saint, it’s an unnecessary affectation when you’re literally taking someone’s life into your hands. You are a caregiver! You are a good person, so don’t feel guilty for getting frustrated when your loved one can’t remember to cloth themselves; do not feel guilty for getting angry if they’ve soiled the bed sheets.

The thing you need to understand is trained caregivers, have just that, training. That’s not to say that they don’t have their fair share of stress, but they have been prepared to manage it, you – on the other hand – have not.

The challenge of a family caregiver is manifold. For starters, they need to take care of a loved one they’ve respected and idolized. We’re not saying it’s always easy to get along with your parents, but they are widely responsible for how you turned out. If you have taken on the role of caregiver, clearly you must’ve had a good relationship with them and it becomes hard when they tell you they can manage something and suddenly can’t do it. They may even snap at you for trying to help and then for NOT helping. It is HARD. So, when you become a family caregiver, you should expect to get angry and frustrated and stressed, the thing we want to do is help you manage that.

As with most conditions, illnesses or chemical reactions, the best way to understand it, is to learn it. In this next section, we’ll discuss why you get angry and subsequently, how to manage it.

How to Manage Anger

In a brilliant article in Psychology Today, Dr. Ryan Martin discusses what triggers our anger as opposed to what causes it. Dr. Martin states in the article that we are quick to say what makes us mad, but events do not make us mad or we would all respond the same way, what really makes us mad is our own appraisal of the situation.

We can choose to believe that someone cut us off on the freeway to directly insult us or maybe they’re in a rush to get their child to a hospital. With caregiving, we are at liberty to react the same way. Our elder may be trying with all their heart to be independent and get frustrated when you try to help… it’s easy to be angry in return, but hard to communicate why they’ve reached a point where they need helping hand.

Anger is one of those emotions that we all try to control and struggle with. Easy to say, hard in practice, but again, it’s your appraisal of the situation, so remember that the next time you get offended and you may be able to step back, reflect, and curb that anger.

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