Caregiver Mental Health: Managing the Difficult Feelings

Caregiver Mental Health: Caring for the One Who Provides Care

While it can be rewarding, being a caregiver isn’t easy. As a caregiver, your mental health might suffer as a result of the demands of providing ongoing care. This may be because of the physical care needs of the care receiver, which can be an especially great challenge if you’re also older or in poor health.

It may also be due to the emotional and mental demands that get placed on on the caregiver. Keeping track of doctors’ appointments, medications, and other details related to your care receiver can be tough. This is especially true if you have your own young family to take care of.

Not to mention simply being able to take care of yourself.

Caregivers Face Unique Challenges

Recently I began co-teaching a round of Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes. It’s a psychoeducational series for people who are providing some sort of long-term care to a family member or friend. Sometimes the people they’re caring for have a terminal illness, while others may require care due to a decline related to age or neurodegenerative disorders.

Needless to say, everybody’s experience as a caregiver is different. Some caregivers have a difficult time because of their age. They may also be in poor health themselves.

While other caregivers may have a difficult time because of their relationship to the care receiver. For example, the spouse or child who now has to take on the role of “parent” or caregiver. It can be hard watching these relationships change and new roles develop.

As well, some caregivers may have complicated relationships with their care receivers, due to past abuse or neglect. Conflicts may not be completely resolved. Nonetheless, they feel compelled to provide care and are doing the best they can in a challenging situation.

Naming The Difficult Feelings

Even though the specifics of each person’s experience is different, there are some things that all of these caregivers share. These things that they have in common are the difficult feelings that can come up when providing care. To name these feelings, they are:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Depression

And I want to say that all of these emotions are normal. It’s normal to feel angry or frustrated when you’re in a challenging and demanding situation that fundamentally can’t be changed. It makes sense that you’d feel angry at the amount of work you’re being asked to do if you feel as though you’re stuck having to do it alone.

As well, it’s normal to feel guilty for feeling angry or frustrated. Or wondering if there’s more you could have done. You know, the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas.”

And of course depression is normal in situations such as these. You may be grieving what is, what was, and what will never be.

So, while these feelings are normal to feel, they aren’t healthy to keep bottled up inside. Doing so would have a detrimental effect on you, as well as the person you’re caring for. Therefore, it’s important for you to find some ways to manage these feelings and express them in healthy ways.

Tips for Managing These Feelings

Below are some simple tips for doing this. None of these things have to involve a lot of money, but if you give them a shot, I believe you’ll find them to be priceless.

  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Take time to care for yourself
  • Express yourself through creativity

The first tip is to simple acknowledge your feelings. It’s ok to feel what you feel. By identifying how you feel, you can begin to take steps in identifying what you need or what needs to change in order to improve the situation.

The second tip is to take time to care for yourself. Now this doesn’t have to be extravagant, but simply doing something that would feel good to you. Would going for a walk outside feel good to you? Maybe you’ve neglected your own health in the process of caregiving and you’d benefit from going in to see your doctor. Whatever it is that would help you feel better, do it!

Lastly, take some time to express yourself creatively. We are creative creatures, so find something creative that will allow you to express yourself. This can be as simple as journaling, to drawing, to making music. It could even be cooking! Again, whatever form of creative expression resonates most with you, take the time to do it!

Need More Mental Health Support?

Being a caregiver isn’t easy. This is true if you’re caring for a child or a parent. Each and every scenario is unique and can present unique challenges. If you’re a caregiver needing some extra help managing your feelings and the toll it’s taking on your mental health, let’s connect.

As well, know that I may be able to help the person you’re caring for. With my experience working with older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s and those receiving hospice care, I’d be happy to talk with you to see how music therapy might help.

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