Dementia, Caregiving, and Controlling Frustration
By Family Caregiver Alliance
The Stresses of Caregiving
Caring for an individual with Alzheimerʼs disease or a related dementia can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. Frustration is a normal and valid emotional response to many of the difficulties of being a caregiver. While some irritation may be part of everyday life as a caregiver, feeling extreme frustration can have serious consequences for you or the person you care for. Frustration and stress may negatively impact your physical health or cause you to be physically or verbally aggressive towards your loved one. If your caregiving situation is causing you extreme frustration or anger, you may want to explore some new techniques for coping.
When you are frustrated, it is important to distinguish between what is and what is not within your power to change. Frustration often arises out of trying to change an uncontrollable circumstance. As a caregiver of someone with dementia, you face many uncontrollable situations. Normal daily activities—dressing, bathing, and eating—may become sources of deep frustration for you. Behaviors often associated with dementia, like wandering or asking questions repeatedly, can be frustrating for caregivers but are uncontrollable behaviors for people with dementia. Unfortunately, you cannot simply change the behavior of a person suffering from dementia.
When dealing with an uncontrollable circumstance, you do control one thing: how you respond to that circumstance.
In order to respond without extreme frustration, you will need to:
- Learn to recognize the warnings signs of frustration.
- Intervene to calm yourself down physically.
- Modify your thoughts in a way that reduces your stress.
- Learn to communicate assertively.
- Learn to ask for help.
Warning Signs of Frustration
If you can recognize the warning signs of frustration, you can intervene and adjust your mood before you lose control. Some of the common warning signs of frustration include:
- Shortness of breath
- Knot in the throat
- Stomach cramps
- Chest pains
- Compulsive eating
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Increased smoking
- Lack of patience
- Desire to strike out
Calming Down Physically
When you become aware of the warning signs of frustration, you can intervene with an immediate activity to help you calm down. This gives you time to look at the situation more objectively and to choose how to respond in a more controlled way.
When you feel yourself becoming frustrated, try counting from one to ten slowly and taking a few deep breaths. If you are able, take a brief walk or go to another room and collect your thoughts. It is better to leave the situation, even for a moment, than to lose control or react in a way you will regret. If you think someone may be offended when you leave the room, you can tell that person you need to go to the restroom. You can also try calling a friend, praying, meditating, singing, listening to music, or taking a bath. Try experimenting with different responses to find out what works best for you and the person you care for.
The regular practice of relaxation techniques can also help prepare you for frustrating circumstances. If possible, try the following relaxation exercise for at least ten minutes each day:
Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Take slow, deep breaths and relax the tension in your body. While you continue to take slow, deep breaths, you may want to imagine a safe and restful place and repeat a calming word or phrase.
Modifying Your Thoughts
As you take time out to collect your thoughts, try rethinking your situation in ways that reduce frustration. How you think often affects how you feel. Of course, feelings of frustration arise from difficult circumstances. If, however, you analyze your response to a frustrating situation, you will usually find some form of maladaptive—or negative—thinking that has the effect of increasing your frustration, preventing you from looking at your situation objectively, or finding a better way to deal with it.
Read the full article HERE on caregiver.org