Battling Resentment in Caregiving

battling resentment during caregivingIn celebration of National Family Caregivers Month, we’re sharing the stories of other bloggers and caregivers. Today guest blogger Barbara Haper writes about the resentment she sometimes feels as a caregiver and offers some practical tips for battling resentment.

Seven years ago we moved my mother-in-law 2,000 miles away from her home to live near us in an assisted living facility. Her declining condition eventually took her to a nursing home, where she dwindled down to 90 lbs. We brought her to our home so she could pass away peacefully among family. However, she responded well to one-on-one care, gained weight, and has been here for over two years.

I’ve experienced a gamut of emotions since being involved with her care. Happiness that she was cared for and that our family could spend more time with her. Gratification to be able to give back to someone who had poured her life out for loved ones. Sadness from her decline, the loss of the person we knew, the knowledge that she’s going to get worse, planning funeral arrangements. Frustrations over staff members not adequately taking care of her, family members not keeping in touch, not being as available for my son’s family during his son’s NICU stay as we would have liked, the effects of dementia though knowing she couldn’t help those things. Dislike of the physical aspects of care-giving (some are natural caregivers: I am not). Weariness over the everyday aspects and wondering how much longer we can do it. Pressure from the needs of family, work, finances, and other obligations. We’ve felt like the ham and cheese of the sandwich generation. We've felt like the ham and cheese of the sandwich generation. #caregiver #dementia Click To Tweet

But the one I’ve wrestled with the most is resentment and its accompanying guilt. What is there to be resentful over? Though I love and miss our kids, I had looked forward to empty nest opportunities. I’ve felt “tied down” as we can’t go out without paying ($17 an hour here) for an aide to stay with her (her needs are too specific for just a friend to stay). While I appreciate hospice services, so many people coming through my home invades my introverted sanctuary. Sometimes they don’t call before they come or don’t arrive when planned, disrupting schedules. When my mother-in-law was in facilities, a 40-minute round trip there might find her either repeating conversations or too groggy to talk. We’ve had to set aside social functions, personal projects, and even ministries in order to take care of her.

Over the years I’ve found a number of helps from the practical to the spiritual that help me in battling resentment during my caregiver journey:

Taking care of one’s own health and sleep needs. Everything looks worse when you’re tired or run-down.

Talking with someone. Not bashing or complaining, but just being able to discuss the situation helps.

Getting away even for short periods provides a little respite.

Taking a day at a time. God gives grace and strength for the moment.

Remember what brought us to this place. As we trace our history with my mother-in-law’s care, we come to the same conclusion, that this is the best situation for her at this stage.

Remember that caring for a loved one at home used to be the norm before assisted living facilities and nursing homes became widespread, and it still is in some countries.

Remember her care of her family for so many years, and look at this as an opportunity to repay her love and care.

Think how we would want to be regarded and treated if we were in the same situation.

Pray. Sometimes, before going into my mother-in-law’s room, I pray I might be “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:9-13). I need His strength, longsuffering, and patience, He has the power to help me to go beyond acting out of duty to enable me to serve with joy. I frequently pray that He will help me have a more loving, unselfish heart. Hebrews 4:16 promises we can find grace to help in time of need at God’s throne.

God has the power to help a #caregiver go beyond acting out of duty and enabling us to serve… Click To Tweet

Remember truth: It is God’s will that we take care of our parents in their old age (Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:8-13; 1 Timothy 5:4, 16), whether in our home or a facility. If our spouse needs care, we vowed, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” Our child’s care is our responsibility.

My time, life, schedule, home, hopes, plans, and dreams, are not mine. They’re God’s. They were surrendered to Him years ago and need to be surrendered to Him daily. This is His will for me now. Though care-giving is not my natural gift, that’s what God has called me to. I can trust Him for grace.

Remember the Christian life is one of service, not self-focus. This is seen throughout the Bible, especially in the life of Jesus:

We exhort you, brethren…comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all. (I Thessalonians 5:14).

 

Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward (Matthew. 10:42).

 

To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews. 13:16).

 

After [Jesus] had washed their feet…he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15).

 

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:7).

 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)

 

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).

Accept this as my primary ministry. Though some pursuits and ministries have been put on the back burner for now, this is not a hindrance to our ministry: it is our ministry.

I hope these have been helpful. I would love to hear how you deal with caregiver emotions, especially resentment.

God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister
(Hebrews. 6:10)

Barbara HarperBarbara Harper will celebrate 36 years of marriage in December. She and her husband have three sons, one sweet daughter-in-law, and an adorable 18-month-old grandson. She enjoys reading, stitching, card-making, and writing for a ladies’ newsletter at church. One of her passions is getting women into the Word of God for themselves. She loves to write about her family, funny or interesting things she see, and things God has taught her at Stray Thoughts. She did a larger series there on Adventures in Elder Care last year.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Excellent advice! I love the verses. I know it’s hard to open up about something like this, but it is SO important to be honest. You are not the only one struggling with resentment and especially as women we need to be able to talk about it or you’ll just go crazy bottling it up and feeling guilt. Great post.
    Messy Mom recently posted…Her Birth StoryMy Profile

    • Thanks so much. Whenever I have brought this up, others say, “Yes! Me too!” It helps to know that we’re not alone in our feelings and to know how to direct our thoughts to put them in perspective.
      Barbara H. recently posted…National Family Caregivers MonthMy Profile

  • Thank you for the opportunity to share, Anita. I’ve been greatly enjoying the posts in this series.
    Barbara H. recently posted…National Family Caregivers MonthMy Profile

  • Dianna

    Barbara, thank you for this excellent article. Your honesty with how you feel really hits home with me today. While our parents do not live with us at this time, they are consuming a great amount of our time and attention. I’ve recently had to give up a ministry because of needing to become more involved with the care of my father-in-law. I’m bookmarking this article to keep as reference…and marking the verses in my Bible that you’ve shared here. Thank you again for your encouragement.

    • Thank you, Dianna. I wish you all the best in your caring for your parents and in-laws. I think most people don’t realize it starts long before a move needs to be made.
      Barbara H. recently posted…National Family Caregivers MonthMy Profile

  • Thanks, Barbara for this post. So timely for me right now. It is so easy to feel guilty when those resentments creep up and I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for the Lord as much as for Mom.
    Melanie recently posted…The Lord is my ShepherdMy Profile

  • You are doing such a great job, Barbara. I continue to be impressed with your dedication to love your m-i-l day in and day out. I can only imagine how difficult it would be. I continue to pray for all of you. You are setting a great example!
    Lisa notes recently posted…When our love isn’t enoughMy Profile

    • Thank you, Lisa. I am increasingly learning (in my mind, at least – still working it out in my life) that loving others often means denying self, which I guess is what makes it so hard.
      Barbara H. recently posted…Back to the Classics 2015 Wrap-Up PostMy Profile

  • Thank you so much-I struggle with the guilt also. We had to move to another state to help to take care of my MIL. She is in her own apartment and wants to stay there right now. So I fix all her suppers and some breakfast. We go over and clean her apartment and any shopping she needs.
    Of course we had our own plans for our retirement and moving from a place we loved was not one of them.
    One of the added bonuses is that my extended family lives in this area. So I also get to see and visit my mother who is 84 and my siblings. So I feel the Lord along with some hard times has given us some benefits too.
    Will save the verses for the long haul.
    Nina

    • Thank you, Nina, and God bless you as you care for your m-i-l. Uprooting would be hard to do. I’m grateful we could bring my m-i-l to us, but I’m sure that was hard for her. There are no easy solutions. I’m glad you’re finding some benefits and seeing God’s hand in it all.
      Barbara H. recently posted…Back to the Classics 2015 Wrap-Up PostMy Profile

  • Barbara, thank you for sharing so transparently. I’m not in that sandwich place in life, but it’s very possible I will be at some point. Your perspective, your suggestions, and the verses you shared make so much sense in helping to establish a good mindset for those in a caregiving place in life right now.
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Heart: Too BusyMy Profile

    • Thank you, Jeanne. I was hoping it would be helpful. No one told be I wouldn’t always feel 100% positive about caregiving, so I was dismayed by my negative feelings, and hoped that sharing what I learned along the way would help others.
      Barbara H. recently posted…Friday’s Fave FiveMy Profile

  • This is a hard path you have walked (and are walking still!), and I honor your commitment and resiliency! Thank you for sharing the honest truth about what long-term caregiving does to our hearts.
    Blessings.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Celebration and LamentMy Profile

    • Thanks, Michele. It helps to share with others in similar situations. I’ve been enjoying the camaraderie in Anita’s series..
      Barbara H. recently posted…Friday’s Fave FiveMy Profile

  • I’ve never been a caregiver myself (well of someone older rather than a young child) but those sound like wise points of advice. I can relate in part too as having a baby, now young child has left me with similar feelings at times.
    Jodi recently posted…Dwell: Five Minute FridayMy Profile