Caregivers experience difficult emotions
August 4, 2015
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URBANA, Ill. – In the United States, 43.5 million people are providing care for someone aged 50 or older. Although many families are faced with the care of multiple generations, there is little understanding of the emotional strain caregiving has on relationships, said a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.

“Caregivers may say they are managing okay, but they often feel more stress as a result of taking on this role,” said Cheri Burcham.

Many caregivers step into their roles without much thought about how emotionally and physically demanding caregiving can be, she noted.

“Caregivers assume this role because their loved one needs help, and it can be a very rewarding experience. There will be issues to be dealt with along the way though, especially if the caregiver wants to thrive and not just survive,” the expert said.

Caregivers often feel a variety of emotions, including frustration, guilt, fear, and anger. It is important that they recognize that these feelings are normal. When these feelings are managed, they can be constructive and provide the motivation for problem solving, she said.

According to Burcham, some techniques for handling these difficult emotions and situations include:

  • Stepping back and taking a deep breath
  • Reframing the situation from a different point of view and trying to understand the other person’s perspective
  • Remembering the good times
  • Contacting a trusted friend and talking about your feelings
  • Understanding the care receiver and her issues, which may include dementia, loss of independence, etc.
  • Participating in physical activities
  • Getting some time off or respite care
  • Concentrating on the benefits and rewards of caregiving

University of Illinois Extension’s family life team has developed a program called “Caregiving Relationships: For People Who Care for Adults.” This program helps caregivers of older adults address the many issues and challenges that they face in this role. For more information on caregiving, visit the Extension website and locate a family life educator, Burcham advised.