Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash

The demands of caregiving eventually take a toll on those who devote themselves to caring for their loved ones. 

While their commitment is admirable, it is essential to recognize that family caregivers often carry an emotional toll. These hidden burdens and emotional struggles are not visible to others. It’s easy to think that both professional and family caregivers can be compared with each other.

However, that is not the case. There are similarities between professional and family caregivers that we may not know about. They each have hidden burdens and emotional struggles that require total empathy and understanding. A lot of times, even the family members themselves lose sight of the fact that caring for others comes with mixed emotions, such as the following:

  • Love
  • Loss
  • Anger
  • Affection
  • Sadness
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

Not to mention that family caregivers suffer the most from those hidden burdens and emotional struggles. They keep it to themselves rather than being open about their feelings so their other family members won’t be inconvenienced. This sad reality needs to change, and there might be ways to deal with it. But first, we need to understand where they’re coming from.

Situations That Make Family Caregivers Feel Burdened

Family caregivers often carry an emotional toll they keep buried and hidden from others in fear that it will influence their patient’s recovery. Here are some of the situations where they feel like it’s a tiring, thankless job:

  • Caring for a parent/spouse
  • Living near or with the patient
  • Feeling helpless and isolated
  • Experiencing financial problems
  • Having no choice
  • Too little guidance from others
  • Too much time allotted to caregiving
  • Lack of healthy coping mechanisms
  • Loneliness in caregiving

The hidden burdens and emotional struggles that caregivers experience often affect their personal relationships. Such a situation can inadvertently affect the patient’s emotional well-being and impede recovery. Moreover, they face tremendous emotional challenges that increase the risk of health conditions such as stress, heart disease and diabetes.

The Burden of Silent Suffering

Family caregivers carry their hidden burdens and emotional struggles silently, fearing that expressing their own pain and stress may burden their loved ones. Moreover, they hide their frustration, sadness, and exhaustion behind a brave face. They would rather sacrifice their own well-being in the process if it means having to keep caring for their sick loved ones.

Reading a good book is an excellent start to better identify their hidden burdens and emotional struggles. One Caregiver’s Journey by Eleanor Gaccetta is a book about life as a caregiver that opens up about what it means to care for loved ones. The sooner we realize that family caregivers have their own struggles, the sooner we can help them overcome them. 

When family caregivers suppress their emotions, it becomes challenging to maintain open and honest communication. This lack of expression may lead to emotional distance, strained relationships, and an eventual breakdown.

Overcoming The Fear of Expressing Their Burdens and Struggles

Recognizing the normalcy of emotions – We must understand that experiencing various emotions as caregivers is normal and valid. Emotions like frustration, sadness, and exhaustion are natural responses to the challenges of caregiving. Accepting these emotions can help normalize and reduce the fear of expressing them.

Challenging the stigma – There is no shame in seeking support or expressing emotions. After all, it’s a natural human trait that needs to be shown at some point. Moreover, caregiving is very demanding, and we should break the stigma that caregivers should always appear solid and selfless. Let’s remind ourselves that expressing our struggles won’t make us less dedicated or caring.

Identify a trusted support system – Having people who are understanding, trustworthy, and supportive is one of life’s greatest things. This may include close friends, family members, or support groups for caregivers. Sharing our emotional struggles with people we care about provides a safe space for validation, empathy, and practical advice. One of the best support systems is provided by people who have been family caregivers and understand the toll it can take.

Start with small steps – Family caregivers often carry an emotional toll they keep buried and hidden from others for fear that it will influence their patient’s recovery. They can start by expressing their emotions to someone they feel most comfortable with and trust. It could be a close friend or a family member who understands. Gradually sharing one’s feelings can help build confidence and make it easier to express emotions to others.

No one is alone on this journey. If you’re a family caregiver with hidden burdens and emotional struggles, you can always seek help and support. Furthermore, self-care is of utmost priority so you can keep going, especially when family members still need you.