Caregivers all have days where they experience different emotions. Our emotions on any given day can range from happy, sad, compassionate, angry, frustrated, depressed—you name it. We've all had those days.
Today I'm having an angry day.
Maybe it's from lack of sleep for the past few nights; perhaps it's just that things build up until I have a day when my anger gets the best of me without any single reason.
Here are the things I'm angry about today:
- I'm angry that this man I love has become so helpless.
- I'm angry that he watches TV until 1:00 a.m. and sleeps most of the day.
- I'm angry that he goes to bed without turning off the TV.
- I'm angry that it's a fight to get him to shower at least once a week.
- I'm angry that he drinks too much, compounding his memory problems.
- I'm angry that he can't remember what I told him five minutes ago.
- I'm angry that he loses things – TV remote, wallet, car keys.
- I'm angry that he forgets he mustn't flush the Wet Ones and plugs up the toilet.
- I'm angry that it takes him 45 minutes to get moving in the morning.
- I'm angry that he is so slow that we are late for everything.
- I'm angry at a society that keeps our bodies alive while our brains turn to mush.
- I'm angry at the researchers who haven't found a way to contain the problem.
The list could go on and on. But most of all, I'm angry at myself for getting short tempered and out of patience with him and everyone else.
I have to remind myself, as Ethel Thayer (Katherine Hepburn) said in the movie On Golden Pond, "He's doing the very best he can." Much as I try to curb my anger and not let it show, I find myself being curt, evasive, snippy and sometimes, just plain nasty when I let the anger take over.
Charlie doesn't deserve that.
Our loved ones with dementia don't deliberately act out or "forget" things on purpose. And until they are in the later stages of dementia, with no control of their thought processes, they regret their actions and inability to cope with life just as much as those around them.
So, I try to remind myself of the things Charlie still does that mean a lot to me.
He still carries out the garbage, fills the humidifier, pumps the gas for the car (when he can remember how to operate the pump), fills the bird feeder and, best of all, he serves as my "watchdog" while I do the driving. He's saved me from a few close calls.
When I get angry I remind myself of the things he can still do and try not to think about the days ahead when things will only get worse.
If you are having an "angry" day, try not to feel guilty; just strive to keep it under control. We all have them; they are a natural part of the caregiving process.
After all – none of us are saints.