As a caregiver for a patient or a loved one, you are probably destined to get angry occasionally. The task of caregiving can be stressful and frustrating. In some cases, they might even lead to caregiver burnout. What are the best tips for effectively dealing with anger as a caregiver?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Do Caregivers Get Angry?
- How to Cope with Caregiver Anger Towards a Patient
- How to Cope with Caregiver Anger and Resentment Towards a Loved One
- How to Prevent Yourself From Releasing Caregiver Anger onto Your Family
First, it’s important to keep in mind that anger in itself is not necessarily a negative thing unless it is persistent and affects your relationship. You don’t want your feelings about your patient or loved one to cause you distress and anguish. Over time, this runs the risk of turning into real resentment.
Feeling constantly angry can contribute to physical and mental health problems if you don’t find healthy and appropriate ways to express your feelings. Ongoing anger can negatively affect your ability to be a good caregiver, whether you are a family member or a professional. Luckily, we have some suggestions on how to manage your anger as a caregiver.
Why Do Caregivers Get Angry?
Professional and family caregivers get angry for many of the same reasons. The difference with caregiver anger towards a loved one is the history you have with that person that can amplify frustration and complicate your relationship. It is not as if you can easily walk away from a loved one.
They feel resentment
Resentment is one of the most common reasons caregivers get angry. It can come from feeling like the person you care for is a burden or taking you away from other parts of your life. In some cases, you may have given up your job, have little time for your friends and family, and resent the fact that someone needs you.
Similarly, you would rather have a higher-paying job that isn’t as stressful but could be constrained by finances or other circumstances. It’s important to combat these feelings of resentment before they grow.
People who require caregiving can be needy, demanding, or have complex requirements that can strain a relationship. When you are trying to help someone who is belligerent and uncooperative, this behavior can cause you to get angry.
Perhaps your loved one or patient is resistant to your suggestions or help or the way you do things is never good enough. When you add in the struggle of setting healthy boundaries with family members, this can become even trickier.
They feel overwhelmed by responsibility
Sometimes caregiving tasks can be intense and require a level of expertise you may not be comfortable with. Even though you’re feeling overwhelmed, there might not be the time or caregiver resources to help you immediately.
The nature of caregiving is how quickly it can change, not giving you enough time to adjust and learn new skills. Whether you’re a professional or a loved one, the responsibility is a burden of its own.
They feel guilty
As a family caregiver, you could have some unresolved issues with your loved one. You might be trying to ‘do it all’ and never feel like you’re doing enough. Cultural and family ties aren’t always straightforward, and it’s normal to feel conflicted feelings.
Perhaps you made decisions about placement or care that you regret. Constant guilt can lead to anger and resentment if you’re not careful. Guilt is very normal for caregivers, but it doesn't have to be this way.
They feel isolated and unsupported
Finally, caregivers who become isolated are more prone to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Feeling lonely and like you don’t have the support you need can cause anger at yourself or your loved one.
You may have other family members who don’t help despite your repeated requests, leading to even more frustration. It’s hard to feel like you don’t have the support system you need.
How to Cope with Caregiver Anger Towards a Patient
As a professional, you may have anger and frustration sometimes. This is normal, but you need to take care not to let it affect the quality of your work. It is a normal, human response to resent and dislike some patients. Occasionally patients may be rude or even abusive. There are appropriate ways to cope with caregiver anger towards a patient.
1. Talk to your supervisor
Before your emotions become unmanageable, talk with your supervisor to get advice on how to handle the situation. Or, if you don’t feel you can’t trust your supervisor, speak with a trusted co-worker or other healthcare professional about what you are going through.
Someone who has worked for years taking care of patients will have experience coping with anger and give you some tips. There might be scheduling changes or other resources here to help.
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2. Improve your coping skills
Next, mindful meditation and deep breathing are just a couple of tools to help you manage your anger. There are apps and online tutorials on how to practice these techniques. If you are a caregiver for patients with dementia, read about the disease process so you can anticipate disturbing behaviors and learn to respond in supportive ways.
Improving hands-on skills along with coping skills will give you the confidence to handle feelings of anger when they arise. Not only will you be more equipped for challenging situations, but you’ll feel in control of your responses.
3. Remember your role as a professional
As a professional, you are in a helping profession as a caregiver. Your patients rely on you for care and support. Caregiving is your job, and it is a noble profession that often isn’t valued the way it should be. Take pride in your work.
As a professional, you should also try your best to leave your work at work. That means not taking the stress of the day home with you, allowing yourself ample time to disconnect and recharge.
4. Understand where your anger comes from
Truthfully, your anger may have little to do with the patient you care for at all. Instead, it might have to do with the fact you feel tired or overworked. You may have problems at home or other worries that cause anger towards your patients.
Understanding where your anger comes from will improve your chances of problem-solving the issues in your life rather than taking your anger out on patients. It helps to keep things in perspective throughout your workday.
5. Address your attitude
Finally, when interacting with your patient, the attitude you bring can make a significant difference. Not always, but often. Even if your patient’s perspective doesn’t change, yours might. Walk into each caregiving situation with a light heart and confidence in your ability to make the experience a positive one.
How to Cope with Caregiver Anger and Resentment Towards a Loved One
Next, coping with caregiver anger and resentment towards a loved one is necessary for both of you. A build-up of resentment and anger can affect your ability to give good care, and your loved one will suffer as well. Understand that you are not helpless in the face of anger and resentment. Believe that you can change.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
It’s important to know when to ask for help. If you have siblings or other family members who can take some of the caregiving load off you, ask for their help. Even small tasks can help relieve the pressure and give you time to deescalate and rest.
If help from family isn’t possible and you can afford it, consider hiring private caregivers to assist your loved one. It’s okay to admit you need help. In fact, it makes the situation better for everyone.
7. Take time for yourself
Again, you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: taking time away from caregiving is a crucial part of being your best self. When you calm down and restore your emotional balance, you’re better equipped to give caregiving your all.
Use all of the resources available to you to make this happen, from respite care, to adult daycare and hiring private duty caregivers to relieve the stress. The activities and things that bring you joy, peace, excitement, and stimulation have to be nurtured. Turn to those to help you cope with angry feelings.
8. Work with a counselor
Caregiver counseling with the right therapist can start you on a journey of self-discovery along with a plan for coping with caregiver anger and resentment. A counselor honors your emotions while helping you to deal with them in healthy ways.
Sometimes caregiver anger and resentment come from unresolved conflicts with your loved one. A counselor can help you explore your thoughts and feelings. These relationships aren’t always easy, and it’s okay if you need a professional’s guidance.
9. Build your support team
Your friends can be a lifeline when you find yourself struggling with feelings of anger and resentment. Reach out to them for support and comfort. If you have siblings, talk with them about what you are going through and let them know you need their help.
Depending on the kind of relationship you have with a sibling, the two of you can empathize with one another or even laugh about the crazy caregiver journey you find yourselves in. This is an opportunity to come together.
How to Prevent Yourself From Releasing Caregiver Anger onto Your Family
It's as if families become the secondary recipients of your anger as a caregiver. It’s natural to unload your feelings onto those closest to you. Still, repeatedly releasing anger onto your family can cause conflict in your relationships after a while. When possible, follow these tips to prevent yourself from releasing this anger on others.
10. Find people who get it
After a hard caregiving day, it is normal to want and need to vent. Your family can seem like an obvious choice because they are available. Try and refrain from releasing that anger by finding solid alternatives like a counselor or good friend.
Alternatively, find people who ‘get it.’ A caregiver’s support group, online forum, or even a favorite book can help you find the support system you need without burdening loved ones.
11. Keep a journal of your feelings
Keeping a journal of your feelings can be an effective way of releasing anger without using your family as the recipient. Taking just a few moments to write down what happened in your day before you engage with your family can help you contain the anger.
The act of writing down your innermost thoughts, regardless of how negative they are, can be empowering. This can also be something you share with loved ones in the future.
12. Create time for positive experiences
To preserve and improve your relationship with your family, especially when you are under stress, create positive experiences. You can do this by setting aside time with your spouse or your children to engage in pleasurable and meaningful activities.
Scheduling quality time with your family will ensure that you will follow through. This can be as simple as family dinners, game nights, or taking time out of the week to bond with each member of your family.
13. Accept your limitations
Last but not least, you have a life outside of caregiving. Trying to do it all can be exhausting. Accept that you have limitations and that you aren’t perfect. Let go of expectations and focus on the positive aspects of what you can do. Above all, have compassion for yourself.
Dealing with Anger as a Caregiver
Anger can motivate change for the better if you make an effort. Accept that some anger is natural, but take steps to express this emotion appropriately. You, your loved one, and your patient will be happy you did.
If you’re experiencing anger as a caregiver, you’re not alone. This is part of what makes us human, and it’s a reminder that our experiences can be complex.