4 Ways to Reduce Stress from Caregiver Emotions

caregiver emotions

Caring for seniors is an emotional job

One caregiving challenge that doesn’t get enough attention is dealing with the strong emotions that unavoidably come up.

Caregiving is hectic and exhausting, so it’s natural to push aside the feelings and focus on concrete tasks – especially when those feelings are ones we don’t want to admit to.

The problem is, if these emotions aren’t dealt with, they can seriously damage your health.

Dealing with these strong emotions rather than ignoring them significantly reduces stress, improves your ability to care for yourself, and helps you be realistic and get the help you need.

We describe top caregiving emotions and share 4 ways to help you manage difficult feelings and improve your health.



Common caregiver emotions

While caring for an older adult, many caregivers have strong and conflicting feelings.

Top emotions include:

  • Anger at your older adult’s frustrating behavior
  • Anger at their disease or the aging process itself
  • Anger that you’ve been forced to take on so much responsibility
  • Guilt over thoughts and feelings (like wishing they would pass away sooner to prevent more suffering)
  • Anxiety because you don’t know what will happen next
  • Frustration that you can’t stop what’s happening
  • Despair that there aren’t any treatments that can restore them to the way they used to be
  • Sadness for all that you’ve both already lost
  • Anticipatory grief, which means that you’re dealing with losing your older adult before they actually pass away


4 ways to manage strong caregiver emotions

1. Don’t ignore your feelings
Ignoring anger, sadness, and other caregiver emotions only makes things worse.

Forcing away your feelings can cause high stress, sudden angry outbursts (and guilt afterwards), hopelessness, unhealthy life choices, sleep problems, or depression.

Acknowledging and identifying your feelings may be uncomfortable at first. But the more you accept what you’re feeling, the less likely you’ll be plagued by those negative health “side effects.”

2. Don’t be “strong and silent”
You don’t need to pretend that everything is fine. You’re in the middle of a serious, sometimes scary, and literally life-changing situation.

Not allowing yourself to cry, show anger, or say that you’re frustrated and need help adds an incredible amount of stress to an already stressful situation.

Instead, give yourself permission to share with supportive family and friends. Talk about what’s really happening, how you’re feeling about it, and what kind of help you need.

You’ll get rid of the extra stress from pretending, get more understanding from others, and be more open to support.



3. Don’t feel guilty about your feelings
Whatever you’re feeling is being felt by caregivers all over the world.

Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations (like finding joy in every part of caregiving) or beat yourself up over negative feelings. That just adds extra stress and negativity.

For example, you might get really mad because your older adult has made a huge mess at the end of a tough day, meaning extra hours of exhausting clean-up for you.

Feeling angry is a normal response to this situation and doesn’t mean you’re a heartless monster.

4. Find an outlet for intense feelings
You don’t want to bottle up strong or negative feelings, but you also don’t want to take things out on your older adult – that won’t improve the situation.

In moments of stress or frustration, be as calm and kind as possible, even if that means just keeping your mouth shut in front of your older adult.

As soon as you can get away, use a safe outlet for your anger, frustration, sadness, or other emotions. Giving yourself an outlet helps reduce stress and decrease the intensity of your feelings.

Some suggestions:


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Accu-Chek Diabetes Link


  • Reply June 14, 2019


    Hi Deborah. I’m right there with you in this situation. My 89 year old mother behaves the same way. The sad thing is we brought her back to her home in the Caribbean and most times she doesn’t recognize it. She’s at home and is still wanting to ‘go home.’ We find that allowing her to pack helps her to feel as though she’s in control of her life. It also helps to keep her calm as we are not correcting her; something that she finds very annoying. Sometimes we pretend to receive a phone call from ‘home’ with a message saying to leave her packed bags at the door and wait to be collected by a family member. After 15 minutes of waiting she’s usually forgotten why she’s sitting there and is ready for another activity. So maybe you could try that. Are you in contact with any family in Brazil who wouldn’t mind you calling when you’re mum gets very agitated? Maybe talking to them and hearing them tell her that ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’ would be a better time to come might be acceptable to her and avoid disappointment for your mum. Initially we were against using these little deceptions but as the condition worsens and behaviors become more aggressie we find that this is one of the few ways to lessen my mum’s distress.

    I wish you all the best.

  • Reply January 25, 2019


    My mom 81 has dementia. It sad, frustrating to see that your old mom is not here anymore. She lives w me and between my other 2 siblings we care for her. She insists 24/7 that she needs to go back to Brazil to live in her apartment and I don’t know hoe to respond to that anymore. We ignore it, we change the subject. I know it doesn’t make sense to her, that she’s saying without thinking, but she makes her luggages and is ready to go. How do we deal with that???

  • Reply April 26, 2018

    v gray

    concern if doing right for hin

    • Reply April 26, 2018


      That’s definitely something top of mind for many caregivers. I hope the tips and resources available on our website are helpful! It can make a big difference in confidence to learn more about their health conditions, caregiving techniques, and useful resources.

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