Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both good and bad. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. Having these feelings doesn’t mean that you don’t love your family member—they simply mean you’re human.

Anxiety and worry – You may worry about how you will handle the additional responsibilities of caregiving and what will happen to your family member if something happens to you. You may also fear what will happen in the future as your loved one’s illness progresses.

Anger or resentment – You may feel angry or resentful toward the person you’re caring for, even though you know it’s irrational. Or you might be angry at the world in general, or resentful of other friends or family members who don’t have your responsibilities.

Guilt – You may feel guilty for not doing more, being a “better” caregiver, having more patience, accepting your situation with more equanimity, or in the case of long distance caregiving, not being available more often.

Grief – There are many losses that can come with caregiving (the healthy future you envisioned with your spouse or child; the goals and dreams you’ve had to set aside). If the person you’re caring for is terminally ill, you’re also dealing with that grief.

Even when you understand why you’re feeling the way you do, it can still be upsetting. In order to deal with your feelings, it’s important to talk about them. Don’t keep your emotions bottled up; find at least one person you trust to confide in, someone who’ll listen to you without interruption or judgment.

Find caregiver support

Even if you’re the primary family caregiver, you can’t do everything on your own, especially if you’re caregiving from a distance (more than an hour’s drive from your family member). You’ll need help from friends, siblings, and other family members, as well as from health professionals. If you don’t get the support you need, you’ll quickly burn out—which will compromise your ability to provide care.

But before you can ask for help, you need to have a clear understanding of your family member’s needs. Take some time to list all the caregiving tasks required, making it as specific as possible. Then determine which activities you are able to perform (be realistic about your capabilities and the time you have available). The remaining tasks on the list are the ones you’ll need to ask others to help you with.

Asking family and friends for help

It’s not always easy to ask for help, even when you desperately need it. Perhaps you’re afraid to impose on others or worried that your request will be resented or rejected. But if you simply make your needs known, you may be pleasantly surprised by the willingness of others to pitch in. Many times, friends and family members want to help, but don’t know how. Make it easier for them by:

  • Setting aside one-on-one time to talk to the person
  • Going over the list of caregiving needs you previously drew up
  • Pointing out areas in which they might be of service (maybe your brother is good at Internet research, or your friend is a financial whiz)
  • Asking the person if they’d like to help, and if so, in what way
  • Making sure the person understands what would be most helpful for both you and the caregiving recipient

Other places you can turn for caregiver support include:

  • Your church, temple, or other place of worship
  • Caregiver support groups at a local hospital or online
  • A therapist, social worker, or counselor
  • National caregiver organizations
  • Organizations specific to your family member’s illness or disability

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