Dealing with Feelings

October 20, 2014

It’s a typical situation for many in-home caregivers: experiencing, sometimes in an overwhelming fashion, emotions related to the job of caregiving or to the actions of other loved ones that make the caregiver feel somewhat uncomfortable. The first impulse for many in-home caregivers is to push these unwanted emotions aside and ignore them. While that may be practical in the short term, in the long run it is better to acknowledge and deal with these unwanted feelings.

It’s natural

People have no control over what they feel (although they do have control over how they act on or react to those feelings). There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel in a situation; whatever emotions arises does so for a reason, and every person is entitled to have that feeling.

Unfortunately, most people feel uncomfortable with some emotions. People generally accept what are considered the “positive” emotions, such as happiness or love. By the same token, people are generally more reluctant to experience what are considered the “negative” emotions, such as anger, sadness, grief, fear, guilt, or worry.

These latter emotions cause discomfort, but they are a part of a person’s life. Often they are telling a person something important, and it behooves in-home caregivers (and all people) to take the time to pay attention to those feelings, see what they may be telling them, and learn how to deal with the emotions.

What is it saying?

Sometimes it’s easy to determine what an emotion is telling a person. The cat darts under a person’s feet, causing him to stumble and almost drop the casserole dish, and so he feels anger (and perhaps a momentary bit of fright). That’s easy to understand.

Sometimes, however, the reasons for an emotion may be a little more complicated. When Father asks to have his foot stool moved closer to the couch, why does his son feel so angry? It could be any number of reasons, such as:

  • The son is in the middle of completing a work project on which he is very far behind and about which he feels pressure, and he’s worried about his job if he doesn’t turn it in today.
  • He was up all night tending to Father’s latest episode and is already feeling tired, resentful, put upon, and unappreciated.
  • He is irritated that Father never says please.
  • His father’s health is deteriorating rapidly, and his request reinforces how frail he is; the son feels angry that his father is fading away.
  • The son and his wife had an argument last night, and he is still sore from the experience.

Try to deal with the emotion

When the emotion (and hopefully its cause) are identified, an in-home caregiver needs to try to find a way to deal with it. The best option is to talk with someone else about the situation. Sometimes this can be a friend who just allows one to “vent” one’s feelings. Other times it may be helpful to speak to a therapist or a spiritual/religious figure who may offer guidance in addressing one’s problems. Many times it is helpful to speak to the person whose actions or words are provoking the emotion and calmly and simply express that one feels angry (or sad or unloved) for specific reasons.

In-home caregivers have a great deal on their plates. Learning to handle emotions that “get in the way” can benefit both them and their loved ones.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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