Are you ambivalent about your caregiving role?

StressLet’s just address the elephant in the room. Although it’s the noble and often right thing to do, having to care for an aging loved one can cause mixed feelings of dread and resentment with kindness and love.

A recent post by Barry J. Jacobs on the AARPs caregiving blog makes the point that such ambivalence is perfectly OK — and maybe even should be expected. In the article, Jacobs writes about resenting the many trips he made with his mother to visit his demented stepfather in a smelly, crowded and unpleasant nursing home. On the way home, the guilt always began to seep in. Who am I to complain about this inconvenience, he writes, when my mother is experiencing so much loss?

These feelings were especially perplexing to Jacobs, who is a psychologist specializing in emotional strain surrounding family caregiving. So after much rumination he offered the following tips on avoiding the debilitating effects of caregiver ambivalence, adapted from the article.

Accept the fact that caregiving will stir up different feelings at different times. Very few (if any) caregivers are gung-ho about their duties at all times, so there’s no reason to beat yourself up for having moments of frustration, anger, etc. over your personal sacrifices. And remember such negative feelings do not mean you feel antagonistic towards your loved one, rather it might just mean you hate the dirty work involved.

Spare yourself harsh self-judgments from the imperfections in the personal relationship between you and your loved one.If there’s a long-running imperfections in a relationship — like a bad marriage between spouses or lifelong resentment between a child and an over-controlling parent — just expect it to bring about some ambivalence. This is perfectly normal and is nothing to beat yourself up over.

Gauging your feelings will help guide your caregiving. You’ll be more comfortable, less reactive and better able to sustain yourself if you accept the natural ambivalence brought on by caring for a family member. Those who are often stressed out and overwhelmed by caregiving duties should reevaluate their plan of action and consider seeking support and/or help.

Are there any other ways to cope with caregiver ambivalence? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.

photo credit: bruckerrlb via photopin cc

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