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Managing Emotions as a Caregiver

Ask the Experts
by Jill L. Gafner

Q: My parents are aging quickly and I’m finding myself overwhelmed with decisions and difficult tasks on top of my already stretched schedule. I’m feeling sad, mad, guilty, jealous, depressed, and angry all at the same time! What can I do to manage these emotions?

A. Hopefully the following suggestions that I am able to offer will help you manage your emotions during this challenging time of your life.

Recognize yourself

We “caregivers” tend to overlook ourselves. We shrug off our own doctor appointments, hair appointments, exercise routines, etc. because we no longer value our lives by who we are, but rather “how” our patients are doing.

Example: Mary, how are you? Answer: Well to be honest Jack is having a good week, so I’m ok. Our first step in repairing our myriad of emotions is to recognize that our emotions matter and play a significant role in our own health.

Create your program

The key to survival is to create a healthy routine/schedule and stick to it. Since no two days are alike while caring for someone we need a sense of structure if only 15 minutes a day.

Create a guide, WRITE IT DOWN, and follow it daily. Keep your program simple but include MIND, BODY and SOUL. We need to behave our way into a better mind set.

Keep socially active

Little by little caregivers often become isolated and withdraw from their social circle. Friends may stop sending invitations too but it isn’t because they don’t care. In fact, they care so much that they don’t want to bother you. They know you have a full plate – and they assume that when you are free you will be in touch with them. So be in touch with them!

We need to remember, we are not the patient; we are healthy people and need to act as such. Call your social circle!

Let Go and Let God

Some things are beyond our control. We don’t have the power to heal. We have the power to comfort, to accept, to manage, to maintain, but the healing part is not always humanly possible. Since it is our job to take care of another human being, it comes with the desire to make things ALL better, it’s frustrating.

Understand you must let go and let God. Accept that we can only do what is humanly possible; the humanly impossible tasks must remain with a power bigger than us. Have faith.

Jill LaFaive Gafner, BSBM, CDP, CADDCT, is Assistant Manager of Training & Development at Toyoda Gosei in Troy, Michigan. She is proficient in Alzheimer’s and dementia care and earned her Certified Dementia Practitioner and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Training credentials through the NCCDP. Jill is also an expert at process control, behavior modification and people development. Jill’s performance coaching techniques includes over 1300 international training hours in China, Korea, India, Mexico, Austria, Japan and Canada. Jill continues to coach over 1500 people per year on multiple processes and procedures. Jill is certified in Dale Carnegie. In 2006 Jill authored “Personal Positioning for the Caregiver” which brought attention to the need to support the caregivers while managing patient’s care. Jill’s message has been promoted via national radio shows, blogs, support centers, cable TV, and newspapers. She can be reached at

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