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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
Caregiving

Use your anger in a positive way

Tribune correspondent
Published:

Anger is an emotion that most people try to keep under control. There are times, though, when managed correctly, that it can be a healthy means of expression.

Used properly, it can act as a pressure valve, allowing us to let off steam before we reach the critical moment when everything explodes. I would say the trick to managing it is not letting ourselves dwell in it for too long.

The worst or most dangerous part of this emotion is how we exhibit it. With the use of self-control we can let anger out in very short bursts and without harming ourselves or anyone else. It may be an extremely beneficial stress reliever.

At some point, as a caregiver, you will likely face this wrath head on. There are so many diverse stages to this journey that at first you will become angry at the disease itself for having attacked your loved one.

Later, you may become mad that the illness has taken so much away from the life you yourself once knew. When the end stages hit you between the eyes, you may even become furious at your Maker, asking Him why He is being so unfair to you and your family. By the time your loved one dies, you may be so full of rage that you never even give yourself a proper chance to mourn.

I experienced this level of rage prior to my father's passing, after finding my brother dead from suicide. I was so infuriated with him that I never truly got the opportunity to grieve for him properly.

Venting is a positive reaction. What we need to do is manage it in short bursts.

There is nothing wrong with getting angry; we just can't let it consume us or cause us to hurt others. Nobody likes an angry person.

If we could learn to recognize anger as a warning sign, it could be used as a motivator. Sometimes it takes that heated up energy to get ourselves stirred up. It may be the only time some of us ever speak up. For people with shy personalities, it may be the only way they ever get something off their chest. It's a perfect example of turning a potentially bad thing into something good.

Anger is usually the response to the fear of an uncontrollable situation, which caregivers face all the time. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Instead it could lead to passive-aggressive behavior, stress and other health problems.

So, during your caregiving journey or even beyond, just be reassured that it's OK to get mad; indeed, it's natural. Anger can be expressed in an assertive and respectful way. It's the belligerence factor that can warrant a problem.

If you're angry, try to put it to good use. After all, we're only human.


Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His books -- "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness" -- can be found at commonsensecaregiving.com.

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