Managing Emotions When Caring for a Senior Loved One

When you are the caregiver for a senior loved one, the days can be long and emotional. Here are a few tips to help you cope.

A child talking with her senior father.

When a family elder is no longer able to care for themselves or their home independently, loved ones may struggle to find solutions. It’s tough to watch a once strong and proud senior reach the point where they need assistance with the tasks of everyday living. It can bring on a roller coaster of emotions—guilt, sadness, stress, fear, and doubt are just a few.

Family dynamics can add an extra layer of complexity to the situation. While many people know they should create a care plan for a senior loved one’s future before they need it, very few families actually do. Then the elder experiences a sudden illness or injury, and family members find themselves trying to make important decisions in the midst of a crisis.

Finding ways to manage the difficult emotions common among caregivers can be a challenge. Here are a few tips for doing so that you might find useful.

Managing with the Emotional Side of Caregiving

  • Be kind to yourself: Caregivers are often very hard on themselves. When you are feeling tired and stressed, it’s easy to beat yourself up about perceived shortcomings. For many, it comes down to the emotional toll it takes when you are watching a loved one’s health decline. Be kind to yourself, and avoid negative self-talk. Accept that some days will be better than others.
  • Have realistic expectations: Being responsible for the care and well-being of someone you love is often a full-time job. Yet many caregivers take on the role in addition to working outside the home. It can make for long and stressful days. That’s why it’s important to give yourself permission to set more reasonable expectations in all areas of your life. Whether it’s how often you vacuum the living room or the number of times you rely on a meal delivery service each week, try to temper the demands you place on yourself.
  • Live more mindfully: It’s tough not to let negative thoughts and fears creep into your day when your family member is struggling. You may find yourself fretting over things that might never happen. While it is essential to plan ahead for a loved one’s care, it’s equally important to live in the moment and take one day at a time. Try to focus on finding joy in little successes and building happy memories with your senior loved one, no matter how small they are.
  • Get regular exercise: While it may seem like a luxury you don’t have time for, working regular exercise into your day is important. It is one of the best ways to manage difficult emotions and stress. Breaking up activity into 15- or 20-minute blocks of time will yield the same health benefits as exercising for 30 or 40 minutes straight. Walking, cycling, yoga, and Pilates are all forms of exercise that offer mental and physical health benefits.
  • Explore respite care: Finally, give yourself permission to ask for and accept help. If a friend offers to lend a hand by running errands or dropping off meals, let them. It’s also a good idea to learn more about respite care from a home care agency or at a local assisted living community. These services are designed to give the caregiver a break to restore their own sense of well-being.

Respite Care from The Wesley Community

The Wesley Community offers families a variety of options for support, whether it’s by enlisting a few hours of care each day from our home care team or a short-term respite stay in our assisted living. Call us at (518) 587-3600 to learn more!