Shift Logo

Our Blog

Anxiety, Stress & Coping
August 25, 2023
Uncovering the Realities of Caregiving

Denise Eccleston

A younger woman and older woman sitting on a outdoor bench smiling at each other

This is some text inside of a div block.

The “Dirty Words” of Caregiving

Caregiving has long been portrayed as an act of compassion and love, and indeed, it can be a rewarding and bonding experience. However, beneath the surface of these uplifting descriptions lies a collection of emotions that caregivers often keep to themselves, because they are hard to admit and not always well received. These are the "dirty" words of caregiving, the ones that need a voice, validation, and acceptance in our caregiving conversations.

A caregiver can be anyone who takes on the responsibility of providing care, ranging from small gestures to full-time support. It could be parents caring for their children, spouses tending to their partners, family members aiding one another, or even neighbours offering a helping hand. For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on adults caring for adults.

So what are the “dirty” words?

Let's face it; caregiving demands immense sacrifices. Caregivers often give up parts of their own lives, pivot their priorities, and rearrange their worlds to provide care. And within these acts of devotion, the "dirty" words can surface. These are not the prettiest or most socially accepted words when talking about caregiving. But they are real, true, raw and need the space to be heard, validated and socially accepted as part of the caregiving conversations.

Words like "grief, resentment, exhaustion, anger, sadness, frustration, and overwhelm" remain unspoken, deemed socially unacceptable. Society has conditioned us that these words are to be unspoken, making these feelings seem invalid or wrong, somehow “dirty”, but it's time to change that narrative.

Acknowledging these feelings is crucial because they are as real and valid as the more socially acceptable ones associated with caregiving. While praise and encouragement like "You're doing a wonderful job" or “ What a good son you are” are heartwarming, they can inadvertently stifle a caregiver's ability to express their true emotions and struggles and seek help. It's essential to create spaces where caregivers can openly admit, "This is hard, I'm struggling, and I need support."

What lends to a caregiver feeling the “dirty words”?

Several factors contribute to these unspoken emotions. The pre-existing relationship with the person being cared for can intensify the emotional strain. Past grievances or a complex history can make it difficult to navigate the caregiving role, particularly when transitioning from a child's role to a parent's role in daily caregiving tasks with conflicting emotions..

The reasons behind becoming a caregiver also shape the experience. Whether it was thrust upon you due to a crisis, or out of a sense of duty and expectation, it can significantly impact your feelings towards caregiving. Changes in life plans and dreams may lead to feelings of grief, frustration, and even anger.

What can be done to protect your well-being:

The first step is to allow yourself to feel your emotions, to acknowledge their presence without judgment. Seek out the right people and resources who can provide a safe space for your emotions, validating your feelings and struggles and offering support. Remember, it's okay to ask for help and have a list ready when someone offers their assistance.

Taking care of your own well-being is equally crucial. Remember to replenish your emotional reserves, recognize your limitations, and find additional support and resources to ease the burden. Talk openly about all your feelings, even if they make you or others uncomfortable; this will pave the way for society to accept, normalize and understand these "dirty" words in the context of caregiving.

Remember, you are not alone, and there is strength in seeking support

As one caregiver to another, I see you and understand your struggles. Therapy can provide a powerful outlet for unfiltered expression, free from judgment, and lead to acceptance and healing. At Shift Collab, our therapists are here to meet your needs, and provide support, making your caregiving journey a little easier to manage.


Email iconPintrest icon