Caregiving means major life changes for all family members involved (especially the care provider and the care receiver). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, caregiving demands can negatively affecting someone’s physical and mental health.
Navigating these mental health changes can be especially challenging. Caregiving can bring a host of complicated, sometimes conflicting, emotions to the surface. These can leave people overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate the nuances of their new daily lives. Often, caregivers experience the following sensations when providing unpaid long-term care to a loved one:
- Feelings of resentment and anger. Caregiving is no joke. It's a serious commitment, taking up time, money, mental alertness, and other resources that most people take for granted daily. The loss of freedom and income can justifiably stoke feelings of resentment and anger.
- Feelings of guilt over feeling resentful and angry at the care recipient. For caregivers, anger is oftentimes accompanied by guilt. The care providers feel guilty that they resent their family members for changing family dynamics. They know that their loved ones cannot help their current situation.
- Sense of loss. Many caregivers report feeling a sense of ambiguous loss while caregiving. It could be the loss of the relationship they once had with the care recipient. It could be the loss of freedom. Caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may feel some loss watching their loved one change.
- Anticipatory grief. Knowing that the loss of a loved one is coming but hasn't happened yet is a special sort of torture. It comes with feelings of powerlessness, sadness, frustration, anxiety, and much more. To further compound the issue, anticipating the loss itself can taint the remaining time people have with their loved ones.
- Grief after loss. Eventually, care recipients will pass on, and caregivers must process their complicated grief while adjusting to a new family dynamic. While many believe that the grieving process is linear, nothing could be further from the truth. Grieving is complicated and people can move forwards and backwards through the many stages of grief for a long time.