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Combat Feelings of Caregiver Dread with These Helpful Tips

Family caregivers take on a huge responsibility when regularly helping a loved one with their physical and emotional needs. Caregiving is a selfless choice, but it can also be fraught with challenging emotions as the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one wage on. Feelings of frustration, guilt, and caregiver dread are common, but they’re often swept under the rug and ignored. Instead of rejecting those understandable feelings, Senior HomeCare of Tucson encourages family caregivers to take care of themselves by practicing some helpful tips for managing their emotions.

What is Dread?

Dread isn’t the same as depression or anxiety. It’s the feeling of fear or apprehension about something to come. It can be the feeling that makes us avoid getting out of bed in the morning or making us stay up late to put off the inevitable return of morning. When caregiver dread creeps in, it can be difficult to face the next day. Feeling dread doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your loved one or regret taking on this important role; it shows you’re human and that caregiving is challenging—even under the best of circumstances. It’s common for caregiver dread to lead to feelings of guilt because we feel like we should be happy about the responsibility we’ve assumed.

Tips for Supporting Family Caregivers

The instructions given on airplanes to apply your own oxygen mask before assisting someone else with theirs applies to caregiving too. It’s important to take the time you need to practice self-care and to make sure that you’re ready for the day and for your caregiving responsibilities. Your feelings are valid; caregiving can be quite challenging. Fortunately, there are some things you can try when caregiving dread makes the days feel just a little bit harder. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find joy in the day – Even when your day is filled with the realities of caregiving, it’s beneficial to focus on positive things, such as enjoying time with the person you’re caring for, laughing at a joke, experiencing the beauty of nature, or sharing a nice meal together. A change of scenery, like a walk outdoors on a nice day, can boost your mood, too. Reminisce with fun stories or over photo albums. Watch a favorite old movie, or listen to music that makes you smile. Try planning something special to do together or for yourself after the day is done. Planning a few moments for yourself–a bath or shower, a cup of tea, or curling up in a cozy blanket at the end of the day—can be something to look forward to on the days that seem harder.
  • Acceptance – Being a family caregiver is a great responsibility that may feel like a thankless job at times. The tasks you perform may be difficult and unpleasant. Accepting your choice to be a caregiver can help you feel more compassionate toward yourself and the loved one you’re helping. It’s also beneficial to recognize and accept the many feelings that come up around caregiving. It’s okay to feel discouraged or to wish you were doing something else sometimes. How you feel about caregiving isn’t the same as what you feel for a loved one. Feelings of dread also don’t mean that you regret your choice. It’s natural to have difficult emotions when caregiving; the key is to be aware of them so you’ll know if you need to practice self-care or to take a break for a bit.
  • Accept help – Sometimes family caregivers feel overwhelmed and exhausted from the daily responsibilities of caring for a loved one. Caregiver dread can appear when that exhaustion gets to be too much. Accepting help from other family members or friends, even for just an hour or two, can give you a chance to take a break. Respite care, provided by professional caregivers, such as Senior HomeCare of Tucson, can give you the time away from caregiving to tend to your own needs. Knowing that someone you trust is consistently available to assist the older adult while you’re away helps take some of the pressure off so you can enjoy a favorite activity, exercise, hobby, outings with friends, or anything that helps you recharge and feel stronger for both of you.
  • Watch for signs of burnout Everyone has rough days and may feel dread from time to time. It’s important to monitor your emotions and to see how often those feelings occur. There’s a big difference between an occasional bad day and being burnt out from caregiving. If the feelings of dread persist and spread into the rest of your life, including the parts that don’t involve caregiving, you may want to look for additional help from family or from a professional caregiver. If difficult feelings persist or lead you to feel depressed or anxious regularly, contact your physician for support as well.

Family caregivers are heroes, but the job doesn’t always feel very heroic. Caring for a loved one can bring great joy as well as occasional feelings of guilt or dread. It can be helpful to learn how to balance those difficult feelings by practicing self-care and taking a break when needed, so you’ll be in a better place for yourself and for the person you love.

If caregiving feels overwhelming, or if you’d just like a regular break now and then, look to our compassionate caregivers in Tucson and the surrounding areas. Senior HomeCare of Tucson is available to provide respite care to give you some time to recharge while offering professional care services that range from personal care and companionship to recuperative care or specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Contact us online or by phone at 520-355-4787 to learn about how we can help you and the family member you love.

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