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Managing the Emotional Rollercoaster of Caregiving

Who is a Caregiver?

A caregiver is someone who provides care for someone. A caregiver can be a family member, a friend, a volunteer from an organization or a church, or a paid caregiver. A caregiver might be the ‘in town’ family member who coordinates or manages medical appointments. A caregiver might be the ‘out of town’ family member who checks in regularly or perhaps helps pay the bills online.  A caregiver may be the church member who visits with the person. Or perhaps they are the paid helper who assists with bathing and dressing or meal preparation and laundry.

Most caregivers are caring for a family member. More than 60% of caregivers work either full- or part-time. On top of that, caregiving can require a significant time commitment, with almost half of family caregivers caring for an older adult at least several times a week, and almost a quarter providing care every day.

The impact on the caregiver’s physical and emotional health can be great.

The Emotional Challenges

The emotions of caregiving can take a caregiver up and down, much like a rollercoaster. Being a caregiver can feel like a great gift and a joy, but on other days it may feel like a burden and can be very sad. Some of the more challenging feelings may include: 

Anger/Resentment - Anger may happen if the care receiver has behavior issues or does not appreciate what the caregiver is doing. The stress and frustration may cause caregivers to be irritable and prone to lash out at small things. Or this may lead to resentment, especially if the caregiving role was unexpected, is prolonged or intensifies. 

Anxiety/Worry - Anxiety and worry develop when a caregiver feels out of control. This may be as a caregiver manages the expectations of family, the care receiver or even internal expectations.  

Depression - These feelings and the isolation that caregivers often experience can produce depression. Often caregivers may feel helpless or that the situation is hopeless.  

Grief - Through illness and the caregiving there is a sense of loss. There is grief in the loss of your relationship - a child feeling more like a parent, a spouse feels less like the lover or partner and more like a caretaker or employee. Grief is also felt as the care receiver loses their abilities. In turn, there is anticipation of the losses yet to come.

Guilt - Guilt may be one of the more pervasive feelings that may be a part of the others. It’s the impression that the care is not enough or not the right way; that the caregiver has done something wrong. There is often an internal, often unattainable, level of care that we “must” do. Or there may be external pressure from the care receiver or other caregivers.  

The list goes on, but it’s important for caregivers to take care of themselves to relieve or stave off these challenging emotions.

Taking Care of the Caregiver

A caregiver needs to take care of themselves in order to properly care for the care receiver.  

  • Feel and acknowledge even the challenging emotions. Use positive self-talk and journaling.

  • Seek help from other sources, paid and unpaid.

  • Take a break and look for respite.

  • Practice good self-care - Maintain proper nutrition and exercise.  Seek appropriate medical care.  Engage in activities that make you feel good. 

  • Participate in formal support, such as a support group or individual therapy.

  • Education- become knowledgeable about what resources are out there.


  • Alzheimer’s Association:, or 1-800-272-3900. They provide education and support- including a list of support groups, as well as an ID bracelet for potential wanderers.

  • Area Agency on Aging: Find the local AAA that provides caregiver support groups, respite caregivers and other caregiving supports.  

  • Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116, Find local resources.

  • Family Caregiver Alliance: Provides information and resources to aid in caregiving. 

  • Lotsa Helping Hands: A free online tool that provides an online schedule for a group of caregivers to communicate and set up/volunteer for needed activities.  

Seabury Care Management

Would you like to talk to a professional about getting support for your own caregiving? Visit our Care Management page to see what resources could be available to you. Care Managers can help you navigate resources and guide decision making, while Life Enrichment Specialists can act as companions and social support.


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