Self Caring

Caregiver Anger and Guilt

Last updated: Apr 19, 2011

I'm So So Mad

No, it's not all sweetness and light taking care of an aging loved one. They can make us mad. Very mad. Very, very, very mad.

Take, for example, some things I've heard caregivers say (or, uh, said myself. . . though I won't say which ones!):

  • "I try to do something nice for her and she ignores it, or complains!"

  • "She makes me so mad because she doesn't trust me!"

  • "I could throttle him when he launches into that same story again. . . ."

  • "How can I help but lose my temper with my mom when she ticks off the aides I've so carefully hired?"

  • "Why why WHY does he keep doing that? He should know better!"

  • Fill in your own blank!

What follows when our loved ones make us angry is often worse than pure anger: It's anger mingled with guilt. We feel guilty because often the person can't help being the way he or she is (dementia, depression, difficult illness). We feel guilty when we keep the upset feelings bottled up and simmering inside. We feel guilty when we snap and say something rude or sharp to the person. We can't win.

So here's one guilt-soothing thing to remember about caregiver anger: It reveals something very important about you.

No, not that you're short-tempered or foul-natured. Not that you lack self control. Not that you're uncaring or mean. Not that you're even doing anything terribly wrong, really.

Getting mad at your loved one when you're a caregiver reveals this about you: You're human.

You're only human.

So stop beating yourself up for what are, let's face it, often perfectly natural responses to extreme stress. Do work on reducing the causes of that stress. But don't add to your misery with a needless layer of guilt.

If you neverevereverever get mad, hats off; you're human, too, though with a much longer fuse than the rest of us. But if you're like the rest of us, you've gotten mad before, and you'll be mad again.

And it's okay. Because it's normal.