Many of us don’t choose the role of family caregiver. Instead, it tends to be born out of a mix of love, duty, and circumstance. As time goes on, it's not uncommon for caregivers to experience feelings of resentment towards the person they are caring for and/or other family members who may not be as involved. That feeling of resentment can fester and lead to guilt over the fact that you feel that way, when in fact, that feeling is incredibly common and normal. In this article, we will put caregiver resentment under the microscope a bit and provide practical strategies to help you cope, find balance, and seek support in this demanding extra role you’ve taken on. Let’s dive in.
1. Understanding the Nature of Caregiver Resentment
If you have started to feel resentful, it’s important to first take time to sit with that feeling. Here’s the truth: caregiver resentment is a natural emotional response. But it’s also an incredibly complex and confusing response that can stem from a variety of sources.
It may stem from things like:
The relentless demands of caregiving
A sense of unfairness in the distribution of responsibilities between you and other family members
The loss of personal time and freedom
Mounting bills and costs being placed on your shoulders
Reduced time for work, placing a hit on your income
It’s important to recognize that resentment is a normal emotion, but also that it needs to be managed constructively to avoid emotional burnout. Understanding where yours is coming from will help you more effectively find balance because you can address it head on.
2. Self-Compassion and Self-Care
Once you pinpoint where it’s coming from, the next step for navigating caregiver resentment is practicing self compassion. Understand that it's okay to have these feelings – they’re human. Acknowledge your limitations and prioritize self-care.
Here are some strategies:
Take “Me” Time. Schedule in regular breaks for activities you enjoy, even if they are short little spurts. This time gives you the space you need to recharge, regain perspective, or just breathe for a bit.
Balance a Healthy Lifestyle. While easier said than done, it’s important to prioritize vitamins and nutrients, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. It’s hard to stay on top of things for others when you don’t feel good yourself. Your physical well-being correlates strongly with your emotional resilience, so take the time you need to get back on track if you’ve lost your way.
Seek Emotional Support. One of the most loving things you can do for yourself is to open up when life feels heavy. Talk to friends, family, join a support group, or set up time with a therapist to open up about your feelings. Give yourself the space you need to release some of the tension by airing it out.
3. Effective Communication with Others Involved
For many caregivers, their resentment is strongest toward those who could be helping with caregiving duties, but just aren’t (or aren’t doing enough/a fair amount) for whatever reason. To move past it, you’ll need to next host an open and honest discussion to air out the discrepancies and ask for help.
Here are some talking points to consider:
Self-awareness. Before approaching others, it’s important to reflect internally. See if you can recognize your limits and where you start to feel overwhelmed. From there, you can establish boundaries accordingly and communicate them effectively.
Discuss Expectations. Talk to the person you are caring for and other family members about what you can realistically provide. Set clear expectations and boundaries for yourself that work within what you can reasonably accomplish.
Request Feedback. How much could others do within their schedules? What is their perception of this situation? (I.e., Did they think you handled it well and didn’t need help, or do they have a lot of personal responsibilities – like kids or in-laws – taking up their time, etc.
Share the Load. Once the foundation has been set, encourage other family members to contribute to caregiving responsibilities where possible. For the best results, you’ll need to be specific about what tasks they can take on. Assign responsibilities among family members as evenly as possible, and look for other ways to contribute form those who can’t devote time (could they devote financial resources, for example?). This helps you find common ground and more fairly share the caregiving burden.
4. Respite Care and Temporary Relief
If your resentment is more toward the loved one in your care, that’s also a very natural response to this situation. You’ll need to give yourself time for breaks, especially if you’re in this caregiving journey without a lot of support.
In case no one has reminded you lately, you weren’t born or trained to be a caregiver, and as such, taking short breaks from caregiving is essential for your well-being. Otherwise, it’s incredibly easy to feel resentment for a role you didn’t ask for, aren’t prepared for, and feel overwhelmed by.
What is Respite Care?
Respite care is a temporary relinquishment of duties that allows you to put your loved one(s)’ care into the hands of a professional so you can take a well-deserved break.
Explore respite care options for:
Temporary Relief. For “part of the day” relief, check into adult daycare centers or in-home respite care services that can provide temporary relief. This allows you to take a break while ensuring your loved one is cared for. Note: If affordability is a concern, please get into contact with us as we can help navigate you toward free or subsidized options.
Full-time Care. If your loved one’s needs get beyond what you can manage, or your resentment feels like it’s overwhelming other emotions or interfering with your life, it may be time to look into full-time care options. Sometimes the most compassionate choice for both your loved one and your relationship is to release the responsibility. This can help you return to your prior roles (father/mother – daughter/son, for example) as much as possible and balance your contributions differently. With love, but with less pressure.
Closing Thoughts: Navigating Resentment as a Caregiver
Caregiver resentment is a common emotional challenge that family caregivers face, way more often than they may admit (so you’re not alone in this even if it feels like it). Your resentment is natural, but it doesn't have to define your caregiving experience. In the end, finding balance and support is the key to a sustainable and fulfilling caregiving journey.
The California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here to provide assistance and guidance. Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s).
Further Reading: Understanding the Difference: Medi-Cal vs. Medicare for Family Caregivers in Southern California
When navigating healthcare options, you may have realized that you aren’t sure what the difference is between Medi-Cal and Medicare. These two programs can provide valuable assistance, but knowing which one applies to your situation is incredibly important. So let's explore the nuances of Medi-Cal and Medicare, empowering you to make informed decisions in your caregiving journey. Dive in here.