Caregiving is inherently an emotional endeavor full of ups and downs. Emotions range from feeling highly rewarded and satisfied to feeling dangerously stressed and frustrated. According to research, caregiving takes its toll by raising overall anxiety and depression levels caused by stress. Increased stress is known to increase anger. Anger is especially high among those who provide care to older people with dementia, a group of seniors known to be short-tempered, albeit through no fault of their own. Here are 5 ways to help cope with any anger that may arise when caring for an irascible older person.
Identify the Warning Signs of Building Anger and Frustration
Research has proven that caregivers are less likely to acknowledge any anger they may be feeling because of shame or even guilt. They may feel as if they are not doing their job properly or that they are even being selfish for getting upset when the elderly person has an uncontrollable outburst, refuses care, or exhibits yet another lapse in judgment.
“The ways in which caregivers deal with anger feelings associated with caregiving are critical to their own physical health and their ability to provide care,” say researchers Lopez, Romero- Moreno, Marquez-Gonzalez, & Losada (2013). Instead of stuffing that frustration down and trying to ignore it, it is healthier to acknowledge it as a normal emotion involved with caregiving.
Coping with Anger while Caregiving
Once you can identify anger, you can begin to put into practice some of the following ways to manage it.
- Remind Yourself of the Good You Are Accomplishing. Practicing positive self-talk is a good way to take a step back from the frustrating moment and see the bigger picture. Telling yourself things like, “What I am doing would be hard for anyone,” and “Some things are just out of my control,” are good ways to back off the ledge of anger’s sharp precipice.
- Meet Personal Spiritual Needs. Being a part of a faith community is a great resource for caregivers. Being involved with others who can express your value and acknowledge your needs as an individual can bring about a better sense of inner peace and balance that carries over into your caregiving.
- Ask for Help. Caregivers are not the most likely bunch to ask for help, but there comes a time when help is needed. If anger is becoming a normal emotion, it may be time to ask for help with some of the caregiving responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be permanent and it doesn’t have to be something drastic. Just a small two hour break here and there given by a friend or home health care aid can make a big difference.
- Turn to Resources. It may be that the source of your growing frustration is due to something that can be remedied. It may be practical in nature, such as making adjustments within the home or it could be time to schedule an appointment and look for medical reasons that account for negative changes in behavior from your senior that are frustrating you. Look for ways to make the day-to-day activities less burdensome and more personalized for the one you care for.
- Pick Your Battles Wisely. Try to remember that this is a difficult time for the person you care for too. Maybe by giving the person more freedom to make decisions, he or she will be less obstinate. The elderly experience a great loss of power as they grow more dependent. The person may not have a choice about taking a medication, but he or she can choose which cup to drink it from. The person may not have a choice about taking a bath, but let the senior choose which fragrant soap to use.
Trying to remain optimistic when caring for a short-tempered older person is not an easy task. It is often an unpleasant part of caregiving. By taking the time to practice good self-care and keep the bigger picture in mind, you can improve your physical and emotional well-being by reducing your own anger and recognizing your own personal limits.
Lopez, J., Romero-Moreno, R., Marquez-Gonzalez, M., & Losada, A. (2013). Anger and Health in Dementia Caregivers: Exploring the Mediation Effect of Optimism. Stress and Health, 31(2). Available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Javier_Lopez13/publication/257756489_Anger_and_Health_in_Dementia_Caregivers_Exploring_the_Mediation_Effect_of_Optimism_Optimism_Mediation/links/54662d090cf25b85d17f5ae8.pdf. Last Visited February 25, 2016.
National Institute on Aging. (2015). Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide from the National Institute on Aging. Available at https://d2cauhfh6h4x0p.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/caring-for-a-person-with-alzheimers-disease.pdf. Last Visited February 25, 2016.