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Do You Resent Being a Caregiver?

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistJanuary 07, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

If you’re caring for a loved one – an ill parent, a spouse, a child with special needs – you might agree that caregiving, even when it’s from the heart, can include complicated emotions. Sadness, frustration, guilt and anger are all common. And these emotions sometimes grow into resentment, which only makes the care-taking role more difficult.

If you can identify the source of your resentment, or (better yet) identify rising frustrations, you can address your feelings and take steps toward positive change. Here are a few common reasons for feeling resentful, and ways to cope with them:

Guilt over-flow: You might struggle with feeling that you can not do enough for your loved one, or you may feel guilty about your desires to do some things for yourself. The reality is that in many situations, no one can do enough to turn the tide of events or take away all of the pain and difficulties of your loved one. So, in a sense, no one can do enough.

Accepting your limits can go a long way toward freeing you of guilt and resentment as you take care of your other responsibilities, care for yourself, and allow in the necessary emotional and practical support from others.

Not getting expected help from others: You might have expected support from other family members, only to find yourself essentially alone as a caregiver. Others may even fail to come through if you ask directly for help. As a result, you might understandably feel increasing resentment.

If you have only hinted at your need for help, then consider trying the direct approach – it could yield surprising results. However, if you’ve asked family or others close to you for help and your attempts have fallen flat, then you need to come to terms with that. Work on accepting the situation, even if you are not happy about it. Then move on. This might mean going it alone or engaging the help of others, such as professional aids or other supportive services.

An impossible situation: Your position may feel incredibly painful, and there may be obstacles that prevent you from doing more. As a result, you may experience growing resentment, which could lead to feeling negatively toward your loved one.  It’s important to remain aware that you resent the situation, not the person you want to care for. To help you gain or maintain this perspective, reach out to others for support.

Caring for someone who was unkind to you: One of the more difficult situations you might face is feeling responsible to care for someone who was unkind, or even abusive, to you. This often arises with those who need to care for aging parents, but it occurs in other relationships, too. If you decide that caring for this person is the right thing to do, keep in mind that you are living according to your values. Focus on the person you are and find others who can support you in your efforts.

In each of these situations, if you are having a difficult time breaking loose of your resentments, don’t be too hard on yourself. Pause and consider how you would respond to someone else going through the same struggles you’re experiencing. Then apply the same understanding and compassion to yourself. Remember, to be a good caregiver, you must be sure to care for yourself, too.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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