Caregiver Confessions: When You Lose Your Temper

Firsthand advice from a caregiver who's been there

All caregivers "lose it" sometimes. We lose patience. We yell. We have your basic meltdown. Even the most mild-mannered among us get just plain angry.

"I snapped at my mother!" says TV-radio personality Leeza Gibbons, who founded the Leeza's Place communities for caregivers after her late mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. "It was so not me."

Watch Leeza's firsthand advice on dealing with anger.

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More tips:

Don't waste a second beating yourself up over it. Everyone loses their temper sometimes, even before the super-stresses of caregiving. Best to forgive (yourself) and forget. Move on.

Realize why you snapped. Losing one's cool is directly related to being depleted. When you're physically exhausted, it's hard to stay mentally on top of your game.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

Consider angry outbursts as calls for better self-care. Deep, calming breaths really can help you regain self-control when you feel yourself spiraling out of it.

Know that where you direct anger isn't the same as the source of the anger. It's common for caregivers to snap at the care receivers they love. That's because we can't snap at the real source of our anger: the situation itself (the disease, a lack of support, a bad day). The person in our care is just an easy target.

Find outlets for anger. For some people, it's exercise. For others, it's a journal or coffee-and-kvetching with a good friend. Primal screaming (in the privacy of your car) can help let off steam, too.

When your anger frightens you, tell someone. Chronic anger is unhealthy. If you find you can't offload enough of it, arrange to talk to a clergyperson, therapist, or other counselor who can help you find ways to manage this difficult emotion.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

See also:

When You're Feeling Guilt

When You Don't Feel Appreciated

When You're Sleeping Poorly

When You're in Over Your Head

When You Lose Your Temper

Family Is Being Torn Apart

When You're Just Not Eating Right

When You Rarely See Friends

When You Resent Being a Caregiver

When No One Will Help

Feeling Anticipatory Grief

After Caregiving Ends

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

about 1 year, said...

Is this thread still open?

about 5 years, said...

My grandma had a problem with me eating things and now she doesn't as much because of dementia. She hs forgotten she hates me which is a relief but I'm sad because it worked like this. If you love them then it must hurt. I'm thinking mmaybe get an animal like a cat or a very small dog that isn't aggressive. Cats are very diffferent they do whatever they want when they want since care givers barely have time to deal with their own things and dogs require too much tending to then get a cat unless the elder hates it because it's gotta be hard for them. Also find a bucket and bean bags for bean bag basketball to relieve frustration then get a ghetto blaster find music that they like during the day. Or books on tape.

about 5 years, said...

I have the world's worst case of ADD and PTSD. I usually go to my safe spot also watching funny movies and reading bad jokes also creating a title for your loved one helps. I think the dementia improved my grandma's behavior she hated me and looked for an excuse to attack and now she doesn't remember who i am I supply a false name pretend I'm someone else you are definately right I'm angry at the situation god bless nd keep you

about 6 years, said...

@ Anonymous ~ A person with Alzheimer's may not be able to express their emotions but they do experience feelings until the moment they die. This is why caregivers and family members have an obligation to educate themselves on the stages of Alzheimer's so they know what to expect. It is really not OK to loose your temper. It is better for us to remove ourselves from the situation until we are able to calm down. There are things we can do such as keeping a journal, learning ways to control and express our anger ~ but to someone appropriate like another relative or a mental health counselor, and know that if it does happen, learn to forgive yourself and the person with Alzheimer's. I hope this helps. I remembering having to apply anger management too at the beginning of the illness. I would go into the bathroom and swear for a few minutes until it seemed as though I felt better.

about 6 years, said...

To Anonomys: Thank you so much! for the words you posted yesterday, they helped me tremendously! I always feel so much regret when I snap at our Mom; out of fear and anger at her disease. In my heart I know she does not remember, but in my head, I keep playing it over and over. Your words were of great comfort to me. THANK YOU!

about 6 years, said...

Experiencing grief along with regret is a powerful emotion. There are many of us who wish they had not said something or wished they had said something. Separate the illness from the victim. You reacted and expressed anger at an illness. Your husband experienced no pain from your anger. The illness has a silver lining in that they do not experience any emotion for any length of time if they feel any at all in many cases. Remember him as he was before falling victim to this illness. And forgive yourself of any wrong doings in his care. If you can look yourself in the mirror and know you did the best you could; then keep your head high and walk tall. Take care!

about 6 years, said...

@ Raymondo ~ I'm very sorry that the counselor took that stance. It is unprofessional. Also you may have been very sensitive, as I am with anything to do with my husband. That is natural, I think. Talking to others often may bring a possible solution or solutions to try out. I agree with you. You are a great person taking such good care of your wife. No doubt in her heart and soul, she is extremely grateful to have you.

about 6 years, said...

Your news letters and comments help me feel that someone out there does realize that people like myself are hurting. I get no emotional support from my two adult children, daughter age 48 + and son age 44+, even though they highly educated and are quiet aware what I am going through, not to say they don't help if there is a crises, they will not step up to the plate to talk or even visit and discuss my concerns. Their jobs are a banker and my son taught high school for ten years and now teaching fire school and he is also a wild land fire fighter and works seasonal in the summer with Bureau of the Forestesy Dept. Their spouses occupation is Dr. GYN and assisted surgical nursing. They are so self center.

over 6 years, said...

I gave the article to my son in law who lost it at Christmas 2011.

over 6 years, said...

Gave it to my son-in-law who lost it at Christmas Time.

over 6 years, said...

No, I mean approaching someone - family, friend, doctor, counsellor etc - and starting to talk about a problem. Maybe reticence is due to shyness, embarrasment, fear of looking foolish, believing that no-one will really understand. My wife's dementia and psychosis got so bad she had to go into hospital and then into a care home. I visit every day, care and feed her and do all her laundry. I did eventually speak with a counsellor but in effect, she "criticised" me for having feelings of guilt and for not taking any time out.

over 6 years, said...

@ Ramondo ~ When you say approaching someone, can you tell me more? By unburdening yourself, do you mean forgiving yourself?

over 6 years, said...

Try to take care of yourselves Its so important Happyier New Year I must watch my spelling RE If You Get STUCK The Happiness Project its a must! Good luck Bles this next year ..Suoport system so imprtant Found exerisce You dont have opull tug Boats with teethLike JacLalane What a role modle Eat Right exercise go for a short walk any E&E Escape and evation A person to chat with or call all works Graet Also try to to rember to do when embarressed It is what it is no matter what. A very wise person said "Joe Its not what the situation is its How You react to it". If Yo let youself get not enough sleep combinded with appatite endless hours can actually make you delusional Bless all you strong Really YOU All ARE Just Wrte all you do You need a secratary or will have a cramp writtting a legal pad of YOUR accomplishments then Thankfully say wow they would have to pay the big Buck for this or YOU cannot put a price on Unconditional LOVE Ciao JBros..Never give up there is a siler lining at the end & durring these time All The Best

over 6 years, said...

Remember, God decides when we are born and when we die. We like to think we could have done something different and changed the date or time of a loved one's death but it isn't true. We all get so exhausted. We get left alone by the rest of the family. Things seem like they go so far beyond what we can handle but God knows what we are going through and He loves us every day no matter what. Do not feel guilty about losing your temper. God is still on the throne and He loves you with His infinite love. He will never leave your or forsake you no matter what. Any loved one you have lost is happy and without pain living in paradise right now. They will welcome you with open arms some day.

over 6 years, said...

It has been a little over a year since I lost it. My husband died last New Years Eve. I still blame myself for having lost it. I know I was exhausted. He was going downhill and we didn't realise just how far he had gone. I can't forgive myself for having blown up over nothing.

over 6 years, said...

Six interesting, sensible and very useful pointers. The first 5 are easy to follow but putting the last into practice is hard because approaching someone and unburdening oneself is extremely difficult . Although I eventually had discussions with a counsellor I could not continue for long and gave up.