Watch Out for Caregiver Anger


caregiver, caring for parents, parent careDad 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.

  1. Arguments and sarcasm are daily occurrences.
  2. You find yourself thinking over and over about negative interactions with your parent.
  3. Family and friends have expressed concern over your words and actions toward your parent.
  4. You are becoming irritable and angry with other people in your life.
  5. 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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