Saturday, June 8, 2013

Caregiver Emotion #3 – Anger

When you are a caregiver for a loved one with a serious health problem like Alzheimer’s, you might find that you need anger management classes. Of course, you are going to be so busy with day-to-day duties that you aren’t going to have time for any additional activities.

What does it take to push your buttons and make you see red? Something that normally doesn’t bother you can trigger a rise in blood pressure when you are emotionally vulnerable. It is important to learn to recognize and address the issues that cause you to react with anger, especially if it is your loved one you are angry with.

The characteristics of Alzheimer’s can grate on the caregiver’s nerves. Repetitive behavior can be distressing to the caregiver. One of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s is loss of short term memory which causes your loved one to forget they already asked you a question and that you answered them. It will do no good to point out that you already answered and to let your irritation turn into anger. It is better to answer the question again. Be aware that although your loved one might be asking you one question, due to failing communication skills, he may actually intend to ask a different question. Be vigilant to make sure your loved one’s needs are being met. Often, you can distract or redirect your loved one.

Pacing is another repetitive behavior that can bother a caregiver. Jim used to pace through the house constantly. The bad thing was that the minute I was distracted, he would pace right out the door and down the gravel road. He would never turn around and come back, so I would have to get in the car and go after him. After about five or six trips to pick him up, I would find that I was seething. Sometimes, it helped if I just went for a walk with him. Although, he might take off again given a chance, at least the walks were a good stress reliever for me!

Another thing that can anger a caregiver is unfair criticism of how you are caring for your loved one, especially from someone who isn’t helping. You may not feel like explaining every situation, but until someone has been a primary caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s, they can’t comprehend what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

You may be angry at the disease that is taking your loved one away. Alzheimer’s has no cure and treatment only addresses the symptoms. To help assuage my anger at the disease, I became an Alzheimer’s volunteer. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a way to help the Chapter provide support and services to help families coping with dementia. I became an advocate to add my voice in support of research to find a cure. By helping others, I helped myself more.

You can’t predict every situation that is going to make you angry, but you can alleviate some of the tension by taking a step back before you react. You don’t have to count to ten but take a few deep breaths and think before you do or say something you will regret.

Humor helps tremendously. If you can see the humor in the situation, it may keep you from ever being angry in the first place. As long as your anger causes no harm to your loved one, you can also see the humor in that. 

Occasional anger is a normal emotion, and as long as you control your anger and not let it control you, it should not affect your ability to be a calm, patient caregiver. Of course, regularly taking a break from caregiving helps your mood and energizes you to continue providing a loving and safe environment for your loved one.

Copyright (c) June 2013 by L.S. Fisher  
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