Caregiving and Alzheimer's: Coping with Your Anger
After my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I was really angry. I felt like I was being robbed of my mom and our relationship. I felt angry because I was losing my mom when so many other women my age had healthy mothers.
I was angry that I would never have the kind of adult relationship with my mom that I saw so many other young women enjoying. I was angry at what I had already lost and what I knew I would never have.
And I was angry that I had to deal with this very difficult situation in my family while it seemed like everyone else was just having a nice life. Bottom line: I was angry.
My anger wasn't serving me
I sat in my anger for a few years before I realized something - my anger wasn't serving me.
It wasn't helping me navigate my mom's Alzheimer's. It wasn't helping me solve the problems we faced. It wasn't allowing me to show up as my best self for my mom.
And it certainly wasn't doing anything to change our situation or alleviate any of our suffering. If anything, it was only making things worse!
Learning to let it go
I learned that I had to let my anger go in order to protect my energy and continue being there for my mom. Of course, I still got angry when my mom declined or I realized what I was missing out on, but I no longer allowed my anger to control me. It came and went throughout the years, but it was no longer my constant companion.
Tips on coping with your anger
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's and you are dealing with anger, here are a few tips to help you cope.
- Know that anger is a normal and justified reaction to what you're going through, but you cannot live in your anger forever. It is not sustainable and it will consume all of your energy. It will not allow you to have the energy you need to care for your loved one.
- Remind yourself that your anger is not serving you. Your anger will not help you solve the issues you are faced with. It will not help you navigate the progression of the disease. And it will not do anything to change your current circumstances. Rather, it will rob you of the ability to find any amount of joy in your loved one and your relationship with them.
- Give yourself some time to be angry, but also give yourself a deadline. If your loved one declines and it triggers your anger, set aside some time to work through that anger. Don't deny it or avoid it. Acknowledge that you are angry and feel your anger. Then set a time when you are not allowed to be angry anymore. Maybe you give yourself ten minutes. Maybe you give yourself a day. Whatever the amount of time, commit to letting it go when the time is up.
- The next time you are feeling angry, try journaling about it. Get a pen and a notebook and just write it all out on paper. This is often referred to as “rage on the page” where you just let all of your anger out onto a piece of paper. When you are done, you can shred the paper to signify that you are letting go of your anger. This can help you cope and process your anger without denying it or stuffing it down.
What matters most
Once again, your anger is justified and it is a normal reaction to dealing with this disease, but it is no way for you to live.
Your anger isn't serving you. Find a way to process it and let it go. You will have much more time and energy to focus on what matters most.
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