The burden, responsibilities, and costs of caregiving are coming out of the shadows and into the forefront of our awareness. The good news is that awareness is the first step to giving caregivers the support and resources they need.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is Caregiver Resentment?
- How Caregiver Resentment Happens
- How to Deal With Caregiver Resentment
The bad news is that we are not there yet. As a family caregiver, you may find yourself in a position of responsibility and burden — the perfect recipe for caregiver resentment. Although resentment may be inevitable, it does not have to be debilitating and there are ways to cope that will make you stronger and more confident.
What is Caregiver Resentment?
You may not even realize that you have caregiver resentment until it has taken a toll on your emotional and physical health. Recognizing the symptoms of caregiver resentment will help you plan for managing these emotions.
- Anger is a challenging and damaging emotion, but a common one. Rapid heartbeat, jaw clenching, sweating, dizziness, and stomach pain are just a few of the accompanying symptoms.
- Guilt is the feeling that you aren’t doing enough or have done something wrong. It can come from the opinions of other people or self-imposed standards that you aren’t living up to.
- Shame is the feeling that arises from a sense of failure or can be in response to resentment itself.
- Anxiety or worry are familiar emotions for anyone who is a caregiver. The responsibility of caregiving for a family member can be overwhelming. Worrying about whether you are doing the right thing or in the right way can cause constant worry.
- Loneliness is a common emotion.Resentment can build over time if you feel alone and isolated in your work as a caregiver.
- Defensiveness is also hard to cope with. You may feel defensive about your caregiving choices and that can lead to increased resentment and anger.
- Abandonment by siblings or other family members may also happen. You feel that you alone have all the responsibility of caregiving and aren’t getting the support you need and deserve.
How Caregiver Resentment Happens
Caregiver resentment is a normal response that builds over time due to the following circumstances. Your situation may include some or all these, depending on the caregiver duties you have:
- Not getting the help you need: It’s not unusual for one family member to have sole caregiving responsibilities. This may be due to proximity, family dynamics, or luck of the draw. Whether you have asked for help or not, you feel that other family members are not doing their part to support you.
- Feeling excessively responsible: Yes, you are responsible as the primary caregiver, but over time it is easy to feel more and more accountable, which can build resentment.
- Other constraints and demands: It is rare for a caregiver not to have any other responsibilities. You may have children or other elders at home, work demands, and household tasks.
- Being criticized: Although others are well-meaning, the constant reminders of how you “should” be caregiving can get annoying. People may tell you that you are doing things incorrectly and suggest how you can do things better.
- Family dynamics: One of the more difficult emotions to cope with (and one that isn’t talked about much) is the fact that you may not have a good relationship with the person you are caring for. You could be caring for a parent, grandparent, or another family member that you never had a good relationship with. These feelings are unlikely to improve through caregiving and may even get worse.
How to Deal With Caregiver Resentment
Now that you have a clearer picture of caregiver resentment, let’s look at some ways to manage, cope, and improve your emotional responses.
1. Ask for help
If you haven’t already, ask your family for help. As hard as this may be, at least give people a chance to help you. Have specifics in mind. Making general requests for help gives people too much wiggle room. Think about starting with small requests: “Would you be willing to take Mom to her appointment on Friday?” or say, “Could you pick up Dad’s prescriptions this week?”
Consider asking your spouse or children for more help. If you have teenage or adult children in the home, ask for a family meeting where you can identify areas where you need the most help. If your family members don’t know what you need, it is unlikely they will offer.
2. Be prepared for criticism
This means practicing good communication skills and responses. One way to preemptively head off criticism is to communicate regularly with all family members. This may include weekly emails where you give health and caregiving updates. This way, your family members can’t say they haven’t been informed.
Prepare some responses ahead of time. If you have been the recipient of constant criticism, prepare a response that is calm and clear. Thank your brother for his concern or your sister for her suggestions. Most people criticize because they feel guilty about not helping enough. Try not to take it personally.
3. Focus on self-care
Self-care can be a challenge. There is no time, it seems self-indulgent, and you don’t know where to start.
Your health is priority No. 1. If you focus on the basics of physical and emotional health, your chances of managing resentment will improve.
- Practice good sleep hygiene and eat a balanced diet.
- Exercise every day. Even a short walk outside can be restorative. If you are unable to leave the house, consider yoga or stretching.
- Try mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that can calm your emotions and help with anxiety and worry.
- Read some books on caregiving to help you with tips on how to be a better caregiver or how to perform tasks more safely and efficiently.
Self-care also means preparedness. Taking the time to resolve your own affairs is an important way to feel more confident in moving forward. You can create a legal will online in minutes with Trust & Will. Controlling what you can goes a long way.
You can take a look at the rest of our self-care tips for caregivers for more.
4. Consider getting professional help
Delegating responsibility can be tough. However, it can be a huge relief once you make the decision to do it.
Professional help can come in several forms. One is to hire caregivers through a home care company to assist with caregiving duties. The nice thing about this option is that you can start with minimal hours and days of the week to see how things go.
These home care caregivers can do everything from helping your loved one with bathing or dressing to cooking, shopping, companionship, and transportation.
The other option to consider is hiring out some basic home tasks such as cleaning, yard care, or even home grocery delivery.
5. Manage your negative emotions
It can be tough to manage your negative emotions. All of the aforementioned suggestions for self-care will help with this. Remember to accept your emotions as valid and normal. Deep breathing and physical exercise can help release tension.
If your emotions feel uncontrollable, talk with someone about it. A trusted friend, spiritual advisor, or therapist can help.
6. Develop positive affirmations
Positive affirmations do work. As your resentment builds, there is that inner voice that can be self-critical, shaming, and angry. Pay attention to that voice so you’re conscious of how pervasive it can be.
Now, try on some positive affirmations to replace the negative self-talk. This can take effort and belief in the power of positive thinking. Some suggestions:
- “I am doing the best I can and that is enough.”
- “I trust myself to do the right thing.”
- “I believe in myself.”
- “I am a good, kind, and loving person.”
- “I forgive myself for the mistakes I have made.”
- “I forgive my family members for their mistakes.”
7. Accept your experience
Your caregiving experience is unique. It is not perfect. Accepting your imperfections and resentments will help you move forward.
You are capable of change and improvement and that will be easier if you let go of having to be perfect. Embrace your experience and try not to compare yourself to others.
Forgiveness is the deliberate act of releasing feelings of resentment. Think of it as a process rather than a destination that will take some time.
You may need to forgive yourself, other family members, or the person you take care of for your negative emotions. This doesn’t mean that things are forgotten, but that you understand and can accept someone’s actions.
9. Reaching out
Reaching out to others can give you perspective, support, and a feeling of solidarity and community. Connecting with others helps you to feel less alone and isolated.
Some people have friends, therapists, or clergy that they rely upon to unburden themselves or get advice. Others join caregiver support groups online or in-person to find alternative ways of coping. You may be surprised to find that many other caregivers struggle with resentment.
10. Take breaks
It’s important to make time for breaks and there are several ways to do this. If you don’t build in breaks for yourself, no one is likely to do it for you.
Think about adult daycare or even a short, temporary stay in assisted living for your loved one. Ask a family member or trusted friend for a regularly scheduled, time-limited stay with your loved one so you can take a walk or do some personal shopping. Plan anything that gives you pleasure during these breaks.
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Know Your Feelings Are Normal
Resentment is a normal emotional response to feeling responsible and overwhelmed. Resentment may never go away completely, but it can be managed. Emotional regulation is possible and as you practice our tips, you will start to feel better about your caregiving experience.
- ”Sleep Hygiene.” Sleep Foundation.org. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-hygiene
- “Mindfulness Exercises.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356