10 Tips to Working Through Emotionally Challenging Caregiving Situations


family relationships and conflictEmotionally challenging caregiving situations are more common than caregivers might think. Family members are often embarrassed that family caregiver relationships are imperfect.

If your family doesn’t get along, you’re in good company. Challenges are common in family caregiving situations because of the high level of unplanned events and emergencies that occur.

Some days it is nearly impossible to have a peaceful moment. On other days you would just like to escape.

Rather than being pulled here and there by priorities, it is time to choose differently. Rather than following the herd, it’s time to make thoughtful decisions and plans.

Caregivers and their loved ones have mixed emotions about caregiving or needing care. Changes in life result in conflicting feelings about what one should do versus what one wants to do.

The idea of duty and responsibility seem to overcome rational thought about life consequences.

Questions like:

  • Do I give up a job to care for aging parents?
  • How much time can I commit to caregiving without damaging my career, marriage, or family relationships?
  • How do I balance taking care of myself with the care mom or dad needs?

Will Caregiving Responsibilities Get Easier?

Caregivers underestimate the time commitment and length of time that caring for aging parents will take. Many think the responsibilities will be short-term only to find themselves in similar positions 5 or 10 years into the future

How many times do caregivers ask, “Why can’t I ever get what I want?” “Will this ever be easier?” “When will this end?” “Why can’t everyone get along?” “Why don’t I ever get any respect or appreciation?”

Until you choose to change the day-to-day situation, your life today will be the same in one week, one month, and one year. The emotionally challenging caregiving situations will repeat and repeat. Crises will occur. That out-of-control feeling won’t go away.

10 Tips to Manage Emotionally Challenging Caregiving Situations

Caregiving, when provided from a sense of duty versus a sense of love, may place emotions in a continual tug of war.  You may have not been close to a parent or sibling and by virtue of your existence, you are called to become the responsible caregiver.

The level of responsibility may feel emotionally distressing. You may feel angry, guilty, frustrated, or trapped.

t is important to identify an outlet for the anger and frustration that results from feeling like a caged animal with no escape route. Going to the gym or taking a walk are positive outlets. Drugs and other substances are not positive outlets.

Determine your level of participation and the type of care required by your aging parent or loved one. Are other family members available who can provide care or money?

Create a list of all of the options for review. Discuss the options as a family.

If money exists to pay for care this results in a greater number of options. If funds are low, support through the government program of Medicaid may be an option.

Mixed emotions are common in caregiving situations.

1)  Agree on a strategy and a plan before you act

If you are reading this article, you may be in a situation where this recommendation provides 20:20 hindsight.  Most caregivers jump head first into roles without considering what might be involved short or long-term. Take time to develop a plan to frame the caregiving activity and set boundaries.

Be wise not to place yourself in an impossible situation where the expectations of your loved one or other family members are greater than the support you are able to provide. Have honest and up-front discussions with an aging parent or the individual for whom you provide care.

No surprises is a good policy. Put agreements in writing.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 140 Being Realistic About a Parent’s Health

being realistic about a parents health

2)  Monitor your feelings

In highly emotional situations we rarely understand the basis for our emotions. We recognize feelings of anger, impatience, and frustration but fail to understand the foundation of these feelings.

There are times when the way you feel may relate to an event or an interaction from your childhood.  Take a moment to analyze the basis for your feelings.

Are you experiencing stress about the actual situation or frustration because of something that occurred in a past relationship that was never resolved? Craving chocolate?

Indulge but realize that stress results in cravings. Take a walk instead to clear your head.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 143 How Caregivers Can Respond to Negative Emotions

how caregivers can respond to negative life events

3)  Recognize that your loved one may feel trapped by needing care

Few people like resolving situations of conflict.  Attempts to express feelings turn disastrous due to a lack of skill in expressing feelings that will be positively interpreted by the receiver.

If you are a caregiver it is likely your loved one is having similar feelings and may only be able to express these through actions that appear to be angry or resistant. Find a way to express your feelings so that your loved ones may reciprocate.

Sharing feelings of loss, frustration and anger may support a more positive daily relationship. The title of my book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions to Life’s Unexpected Changes was born from this idea.

Caregivers feel trapped by responsibilities. Aging parents and others feel trapped by illness and from needing care from others. Many aging parents don’t want to be a burden to their children.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 77 Trapped Caring for an Elderly Parent or a Spouse

trapped caring for elderly parent

4) Acknowledge negative feelings

Controversy and disagreement exist in many care situations. Listen and acknowledge the feelings of others but refuse to allow their feelings to become yours.

Negativity has a way of creeping in to make situations worse. Being realistic and identifying options balances situations that appear to be spinning out of control.

Acknowledge your role in situations. Accept responsibility and encourage others to do the same. Retain the services of a professional caregiving advocate if you or others are unable to gain a larger perspective regarding available options.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 12 Dealing With Negative Elderly Parents

Dealing With Negative Elderly Parents

5)  Understand that there are no perfect families

If you experienced a difficult past relationship with your loved one, accepting the role of primary caregiver may not be an option. In this situation, your time and effort may be better invested in working to mend the relationship than in performing the physical tasks of caregiving.

Investigate options to determine the care that is needed and alternatives to provide the care. Hiring others to provide care may be the best option in situations where families don’t get along.

Listen to The Caring Generation Episode 17 When Families Don’t Get Along

Dysfunctional Family: The Challenges of Being A Caregiver

6)  Hire paid caregivers or a care manager

There will be a point where the level or amount of care needed by a loved one exceeds what a caregiver is able to provide. Lack of sleep, no time for yourself, declining health, or dreading the caregiving situation are all indicators that support is needed.

Research and interview companies who provide a variety of support to understand what services are available. Then make the decision on what type of care you will utilize and in what frequency.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 125 Why Caregivers Need a Break

why caregivers need a break

7) Counseling may be beneficial

If feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, and anxiety persist seek professional counseling to help you work through this challenging time. There is no shame in admitting that your ongoing attempts to change your feelings or a situation have not worked out the way you hoped or expected.

Sometimes an outside perspective is necessary to help us work through emotional concerns. When caregivers are in the emotional throes of a situation it is impossible to believe that other options may exist.

Counseling professionals who have expertise with family care situations can provide support for needed change.

Listen to the Caring Generation Podcast Episode 95 Why Caregivers Quit

why do caregivers quit

8)  Set boundaries with family members

Refuse to allow family members to become a compliant factory. If or when this occurs suggest a meeting with a local care manager who will be able to provide insight and recommendations into a care situation.

It is often family members who complain the most and refuse to take action to change the situation. Call their bluff.

Remind them that complaining offers no solutions. Actions offer solutions.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 31 Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents

Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents

9)  Recognize that all caregivers are human

Caregiving is one of the most personally difficult, challenging, and emotional roles in life.  Accept the reality that it is common to feel conflicted when caring for your loved one.

Take time to acknowledge your feelings and find ways to manage frustration and emotional overwhelm by taking time away from the responsibilities of caregiving. We all become impatient and then feel guilty.

Caregivers become anxious when too many issues are coming their way. Caregiving is a complicated role. Everyone makes mistakes.

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 24 Caring for My Elderly Mother is Killing Me

Caring for My Elderly Mother Is Killing Me

10) Accept help and seek caregiver support groups

Seek support from other caregivers. Read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts and participate in Pamela’s online program to help caregivers care for aging parents.

The more educated you become the more confident you will become in your ability to successfully navigate unexpected situations.

Walking Away is an Option

Realize that walking away may be the best option.  Caregivers often feel a responsibility or duty to remain in impossible situations.

There are situations, due to health diagnoses or chronic conditions, the care of a loved one becomes impossible to manage or navigate.  In these situations walking away from the daily responsibilities of caregiving may be the wisest action to take instead of becoming unintentionally abusive or neglectful.

Professional advocates exist to serve in these situations to ensure care will be provided.  Retaining an advocate offers peace of mind that needed care is provided while allowing you to preserve your health and well-being.

Take action today to reduce caregiving stress and anxiety. Help exists but if only you make the choice to act. Where will you be one week, one month, or one year from now if you continue doing the same things?

Listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 132 Breaking Caregiver Promises

breaking caregiver promises

Choose one or all of the below supports to relieve caregiving overwhelm and to feel more confident about your abilities and choices.

© 2012, 2013, 2018, 2022 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.

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