Dad had briefed me on my most important caregiver duty. "What ever you do, don't let mom lose the keys to the mail box." Returning home after a long day at the hospital while my father was having surgery, mom and I were exhausted. Before I realized what was happening, we were arguing at the top of our lungs over who would keep track of the mail box keys.
I don't think I can ever recall that night in my parent's living room without a sense of shame. I really lost control and blasted my mother with all the fear and frustration I felt all day as a result of her strange behavior and the worry over my dad's surgery.
Mom forgave and forgot our argument. Forgiving myself is still a work in progress. The anger that can develop when caring for parents is powerful. When a parent has dementia as my mother did, the stress can be overwhelming.
Watch for these five warning signs that stress and anger are overtaking your best parent care intentions.
- Arguments and sarcasm are daily occurrences.
- You find yourself thinking over and over about negative interactions with your parent.
- Family and friends have expressed concern over your words and actions toward your parent.
- You are becoming irritable and angry with other people in your life.
- Minor frustrations like being cut off in traffic or ignored by store clerk result in major outbursts.
Your anger is a huge warning that caregiver stress is about to overwhelm you. It's time to stop, take stock of your options and get more help.
- Take a break from caring for parents. Spend the money for a respite caregiver or a temporary stay for your parent in a senior care home. Ask for help from siblings and friends to fill in for you. Seek out respite services from your local Office on Aging.
- Join a support group as a safe place to vent some of your negative feelings. You will get helpful advice and learn that you are not alone in your parent care challenges.
- Find a counselor or therapist to help you deal with your anger and negative feelings toward your parent.
- If your parent has dementia, educate yourself about difficult behaviors and recommended ways of dealing with them.
- Schedule mandatory time for activities that you enjoy including exercise and time with friends.
- Use tools from your spiritual practice like meditation and prayer to calm and center your self.
How do you cope with anger as a caregiver? Share your suggestions with us.
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