If you have found yourself in the primary care role for a loved one battling cancer, you’re at a high risk of caregiver resentment and burnout. It’s no wonder caregivers can become sick themselves while caring for a sick loved one — between the emotional strain and physical demands that caregiving requires, it’s difficult to find time to take a breath and care for yourself. It’s imperative, however, that you recognize the signs of caregiver resentment and burnout, along with ways to combat the stress. After all, the healthier you are, the better you can care for your loved one.
Is Caregiver Resentment Normal?
The caregiver relationship is a stressful one, no matter how much you love the person you’re caring for. Caregivers tend to put their primary relationship second, meaning for the duration of the cancer, the daughter becomes a caregiver, having fewer daughter interactions and more caregiver ones. This shift in roles can cause varying emotions on both sides, including feelings of resentment from the caregiver.
If you’re feeling angry or resentful towards your loved one due to the changes to your relationship, your routine or your health, you’re experiencing valid and normal feelings. However, if you’re feeling resentment or anger towards your loved one that leaves you feeling like you want to verbally or physically hurt your loved one, you’re walking into more dangerous territory and are in need of some support yourself.
How Do You Avoid Feeling Resentment or Becoming Ill Yourself?
The best way to avoid feeling resentment is to get plenty of help and time away from your role as caregiver. This time away from your caregiving responsibilities is called respite, and it can come in a variety of ways. Your respite time could be a set time every week where you grab a cup of hot coffee in silence for an hour at your favorite neighborhood bakery, or it could be for a long weekend so you can get away with friends. In any case, respite time is important and should be a priority when scheduling doctor appointments, chemo treatments and the rest of your month. You can ask a friend or family member to step into your caregiver role during your respite time, or work with a local home health care agency to have a professional come in during your absence.
In addition to making sure you’re getting time away from your role as a caregiver, you can also reduce feelings of resentment by stepping back into your original relationship with them. If you’re caring for a sick spouse, for example, make time to go on dates together, either outside or inside the home. Reconnecting as a spouse and not just a caregiver can help you feel better.
If you find that’s too challenging, take up an exercise or old hobby you love to do, as it can give you both an emotional outlet and health benefits. Finally, seeing a therapist on a regular basis can assist you with feelings of resentment. Choose a counselor that’s near to you and one that you enjoy seeing a few times per month.
Feeling caregiver resentment is normal, but you can’t feel better without an action plan that includes respite time, support and a few hobbies. Your new role is challenging, but you can get through it with the right kind of help.
UVA Cancer Center offers programs specifically tailored to caregivers of cancer patients, including grief support, counseling and spiritual care.Learn More