Clinical Psychologist Offers Advice About the Fxpectations of Strained Caregivers

Barry J. Jacobs, a clinical psychologist, family therapist and health care consultant, has advice for caregivers who feel stressed by their responsibilities, and especially if they feel abandoned by others who they wish were more supportive. The strain is compounded when the one being cared for shows little appreciation for the caregiver’s efforts. Jacobs says most family caregivers have at least some unmet expectations. “They chafe whenever their sacrifices are taken for granted by others,” Jacobs says. “They fume if their requests for help are ignored.” He says some will confront those who disappoint them while others shrug it off, but the caregivers can still feel abandoned and embittered. So how should caregivers respond? There’s no one right answer for everyone, Jacobs says. One option is to “bare your soul” to others. This may lower your emotional pressure and might even draw in some of that needed support. Another choice is to simply keep your expectations low, at least for as long as you are managing okay. This helps avoid constant feelings of disappointment. The drawback here, though, is it may suggest to others that their help isn’t needed at all. “A third approach is radically simple,” Jacobs says. “Caregivers can decide to have no expectations of others.” He says the advantage of this approach is that the caregiver will take things as they come, good or bad, relishing what they can without being consumed with disappointment. “This is a difficult dilemma,” Jacobs concludes. “Will having expectations as a caregiver lead you to more self-advocacy or greater emotional pain? It is a choice that, after assessing your own situation and needs, you have the power to make.” (This information was excerpted from an article by AARP, an AgeWise Colorado Provider.)

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