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Caregivers Experience Difficult Emotions

Many families are faced with the care of multiple generations. There are 43.5 million people in the U.S. providing care for someone aged 50 and older. Caregiving is often done with little understanding of the emotional strain it has on relationships. Caregivers may say they are managing okay, but often feel more stress than do those who are not caregivers.

Many caregivers step into their roles without much thought as to how emotionally and physically demanding caregiving can be – they just do it because it's their loved one, and they need the help. Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience, but there will be issues to be dealt with along the way, especially if the caregiver wants to thrive and not just survive. One issue is that caregivers will often feel a variety of emotions including frustration, guilt, fear, and anger. It is important that they recognize that these feelings are normal and when they are managed, they can be constructive and provide the motivation for problem solving. Some techniques in 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 the issues they are having such as loss of independence, dementia, etc.
  • Participating in physical activities
  • Getting some time off or respite care
  • Concentrating on the benefits and rewards of caregiving

The Family Life Educators for the University of Illinois Extension have a curriculum called "Caregiving Relationships: For People Who Care for Adults." This curriculum is used with caregivers of older adults, helping them address the many issues and challenges that they face in the caregiving role. Contact any of these Educators listed on this Blog if you'd like more information on caregiving.