July 26th, 2010 at 8:26 am
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Caregivers’ Emotions Run the Gamut

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

I once worked with an individual who proudly admitted to workplace confidants that every single night and morning, he prayed that their manager would die. Some thought it funny. I thought the person was more than a little odd. I never trusted his judgment or felt safe in his presence.

Who prays for another individuals’ death, I asked my friend? “He does! You think he’s kidding? He isn’t. He’s been praying for years,” is the answer I got every time I asked. In time, I have learned that some caregivers pray for their parents’ death.

When I first heard some caregivers openly share their recurring wish that a parent in their care would die, I could not begin to fathom such feelings. My initial and only response was to respectfully suggest to one of the caregivers that she get help to avoid acting on such overpowering feelings. Other caregivers chimed-in to support the individual. They admittedly shared the same or similar feelings. From that point forward, I just listened.

I quickly realized that I was in the minority in that conversation. Live and learn. I learned more than I ever wanted to on this sensitive issue. Some caregivers who express such feelings are clear that there is no love lost between them and their parents. Some share stories of how they were treated as children, or, how abusive their parents have been and still are toward them. These caregivers are tired. Sometimes they are sick and tired.

When a person actively prays for the death of a parent who is chronically ill and in declining health, all that comes to mind for me are the social eldercare alternatives – day care, respite agencies, assisted living and nursing homes. Still, I never ask. I just listen, knowing that caregivers’ emotions run the gamut.

Regardless of strong emotional bonds, all relationships have moments of emotional ambivalence. Negative emotions would easily become overpowering if not acknowledged. It takes emotional strength to admit to having such feelings.

It is a good first step to air stressful feelings arising from our respective care journeys. Like anything else, though, sometimes negative feelings toward those in our care may evolve to become obsessive, immobilizing, or, worse – inappropriately acted out. Instead of risking losing the emotional battle, it may be worth revisiting caregiver resources that will grant any exhausted caregiver near-instant relief from burdens of care. They’re only a click or a call away at EldercareLink.com.

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