I remember the first time I took my husband to the hospital to be admitted for pneumonia. My feelings ran the gamut. I felt so relieved and couldn’t quite figure out why. My relief then gave way to a sense of guilt as I thought about not having to give him daily medications and prepare foods for his strict diet. I was free and yet I felt badly that I was free!
Sound familiar? I’ve since realized that similar situations occur for most caregivers. We may feel resentment that our loved one’s illness is taking up too much time from our lives and yet, when we find someone to help us, we worry that tasks won’t get done and medications won’t be given. It seems we just can’t enjoy the free time for ourselves.
Having two conflicting feelings bewildered me at first. Was I the only one who felt relief? Did I dare say out loud that I was happy to have a break? When my loved one passed on, should I express my profound relief that the end had come after a long illness?
If these thoughts and feelings have given you sleepless nights, read on for my tips on handling what seem like irrational ways of feeling.
, acknowledge to yourself that it’s natural to feel more than one emotion at a time, and that typically we humans often can feel both positive and negative feelings at once. Think about other times in your life and during transitions when you’ve experienced a mix of feelings.
If you have children, remember when your child/children went to that first day of school or flew the nest and went to work or college? How did you feel? Probably a mixture of sadness and joy! When I left home for that first job, I was excited and yet fearful about the future. Opposite feelings are a natural part of life; however these same feelings seem more pronounced and strange when we are caregivers.
, acknowledge your feelings to others. Express the fact that you are feeling relieved and guilty, sad yet overjoyed at the prospect of having some free time. “I feel so empty now that Harold has a full time nurse. A part of me misses the daily routine and a part of me is delighted to have some time for myself.” Practice saying your feelings to others; in most cases, your friends and family will understand you more and will confirm your concerns and triumphs. Acknowledging your emotions to yourself and to others will help to keep you in a positive frame of mind because you aren’t pretending to be someone you are not.
recommendation is the really hard one to do. Acknowledge to your loved one/care partner that you feel resentful, tired, frustrated, overjoyed, delighted - whatever negative and positive emotions you have. Often our care partners can see the stress building up or relief when a transition is made. Most of the time, they can read us very well; after all, they’ve known us awhile and see the signs, even when the signs are subtle. “I’m so tired from getting up several times a night that I could just scream.” “I am so relieved that you are in this facility where we can really find the problem.” Statements like these opened up my emotions to my loved ones; I found they often already knew how I was feeling. However, my saying the words helped them respond to my needs even more. An understanding is created that provides you with support from everyone, including your care partner. It’s always amazing to me how our care partners can turn the tables and become our caregivers!!!
Click here to read Margery Pabst’s article, “Don’t Fall Into the Guilt Trap: 3 Tips for Caregivers”
Margery Pabst is the co-author of “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey” and the host of eCareDiary’s new BlogTalkRadio show, “Caregivers Speak.” On Tuesday, June 5 at 2PM, Margery and three caregiver panelists will discuss the “Importance of Keeping A Positive Mental Attitude While Caregiving.” Margery also hosts eCareDiary’s “Caregiver and Physician Conversations” on the last Tuesday of each month at 2PM. Look for other articles and expert advice from Margery at www.eCareDiary.com and on her website at www.pivotalcrossings.com
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