Dealing With Caregiver Resentment

I’ve never tried to portray myself as anywhere near perfect or as having it all together, but one fault that seems abominable and embarrassing to have to admit is that sometimes I resent having my mother-in-law here and caring for her. I mentioned some of the disadvantages of caring for a parent at home about seven paragraphs down here.

I Googled caregiver resentment and came up with some practical, helpful tips, but nothing really for the deeper issues. One post even advised just accepting it as part of the whole package. While I can accept that resentment might naturally arise, I can’t accept that as normal and okay: it’s miserable to live with, but even worse, as a Christian, it’s an evidence of my own selfishness. So then I Googled something along the lines of overcoming resentment as a Christian and looked at several of the articles that came up, but most of them dealt with resentment against someone who has done you wrong and the need to forgive.

So I decided to write down some of the things that help me during those times both so it’s here for me to refer back to when needed and so hopefully it might be a help to someone else. And I am calling it “dealing with” rather than “overcoming” caregiver resentment because, although I’d like to have a conversation like this just once and have that take care of my attitude forever, I’ve found I have to go over these things periodically. I guess that is part of living with a sinful nature and needing to renew one’s mind.

So here are ways to deal with resentment, beginning with the practical and moving on toward the spiritual:

1. Take care of your own health, including getting enough sleep. Everything seems worse if you’re sleep-deprived or dragging because you’re not eating right.

2. Talk to someone. My husband and I feel free to talk honestly with each other, and he’s not offended that I do get frustrated with the situation sometimes. I know I have an open door to talk with him about it whenever needed.

3. Get away from the situation sometimes. I am thankful we do have a caregiver here in the mornings so I can run errands or take care of other things, and occasionally we’ll have someone come in for an evening or stay longer on a Saturday so we can have an outing.

4. Remember what brought you to this place. As we trace our history with my mother-in-law’s care, we come again to the same conclusion, that this is the best situation for her at this stage. There may come a time when one or both of us become unable to care for her or her needs become greater than what we can manage at home, but for now, this is best.

5. Remember that caring for a loved one at home used to be the norm before assisted living facilities and nursing homes became widespread, and it still is in some countries.

6. Remember her care of you or your husband for so many years, and look at this as an opportunity to repay her love and care.

7. Remember it could be worse. My mother-in-law is not hard to get along with at all. Some of the residents we encountered in assisted living or the nursing home perhaps made us appreciate that fact even more.

8. Take it a day at a time, or a moment at a time. If we think, “How many years will I have to do this?” we can feel defeated and depressed. All we have to do is deal with this moment, this day, and trust God’s grace will be sufficient for all the days ahead.

9. Think how you would want to be regarded and treated if you were in the same situation.

10. Accept it as God’s will. Maybe you didn’t have time to sort through options, as we did, to come to the conclusion to bring an elderly parent home, or maybe there are extenuating circumstances that compound the resentment you feel. Maybe you don’t have a parent at home, but you’re the only sibling in town to visit them or oversee their care in a facility. Maybe it is even time to do something different. But for this moment right now, this is God’s will for you, and if you surrender it to Him, He will provide the grace to deal with it. “In acceptance lieth peace,” a poem by Amy Carmichael attests.

11. Pray. Sometimes just before going into my mother-in-law’s room to change her, I pray that I might be “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness,” part of Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-13. Or, as the ESV puts it, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” That encompasses so much: that I need His strength, longsuffering, and patience, that He has the “glorious power” to give it, and that He can help me to go beyond just acting out of duty, but He can enable me to serve with joy. I also frequently pray that He will help me have a more loving, unselfish heart.

12. Remember the Christian life is one of service, not self-focus. Claudia Barba said in The Monday Morning Club, “The Christlike life has nothing at all to do with satisfying, coddling, or promoting self, but everything to do with being poured out for others” (p. 55). You see it in the life of Christ and Paul and others in the Bible both in instruction and in example. That doesn’t mean we’re doormats or martyrs or that we can never we can never do anything just for fun. But our primary purpose is serving Him by serving others. Some verses that help in this regard are:

Now we exhort you, brethren…comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all. (I Thessalonians 5:14).

Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward (Matthew. 10:42).

To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews. 13:16).

God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews. 6:10).

So after [Jesus] had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15).

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:7).

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).

13. Accept this as my primary ministry. This is one area I struggle with the most. As the nest starts emptying, though we miss our kids intensely, we begin to look to other things that have been put on the back burner for a while: maybe now we can write that book, get that degree, travel, sew up all that fabric or complete all those projects. But now we’re tied down again. Or maybe some have had to step back from other ministries at church in order to care for a parent. We need to remind ourselves that this is not a hindrance to our ministry: it is our ministry. Even limitations set the parameters of our ministry. Elisabeth Elliot has said:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.

I don’t mean to reduce caring for a parent to a “job,” but I believe we can substitute “ministry” for “job” there.

I hope some of these are helpful for any reader facing any kind of resentment in your situation, and I’d be happy to hear any other thoughts or tips you might have.

EldercareSharing at Thought-Provoking Thursday. and Works For Me Wednesday.

24 thoughts on “Dealing With Caregiver Resentment

  1. Barbara, thank you for sharing these things that help you when you struggle with being a caregiver. Your honesty is refreshing. I love that you pray Scripture back to God before going into your mother-in-law’s room. I have a friend who sometimes goes through the same thing. I want to let her know about this post because I know how much it will bless her. While my father-in-law does not live with us, my husband and I are the ones who see to his basic needs and go just to spend time with him. He’s 89…and it is a challenge at times. YOU are a BLESSING, my friend! (((hugs)))

  2. Excellent thoughts – I’m realizing many of your points can also be good for new mothers who didn’t quite know what to expect and are frustrated (and yes, sometimes resentful) with the amount of time and attention a new baby requires.

  3. Barbara
    This has been so helpful. I almost feel ashamed as my MIL is not in the home. But we had to put our retirement plans (#10) on the back burner. We wanted to RV the country.
    But When she fell and broke her shoulder we knew she would not be able to do some things by herself.
    She still wants to live by herself, so we take her McDonalds breakfast (her favorite) 3 times a week. I cook all her supper meals and send them over to her. I also clean her apartment once a week and do all her laundry. I always feel this is what God would have us to do. But I would have resentful days of wishing we could just go RV instead of renting a place in California.
    Hubby and I discussed it and we decided after having sold our camping RV in AZ that we need to purchase another that is for camping. That way we can take a few days off and on and get away. My daughter will help us in that regard take care of MIL. Actually it was her idea.
    So thanks again for this-it lets all know we all struggle sometimes-when we do not want to. We want to do God’s will.
    Will copy and paste and save this to re-read on bad days 🙂

  4. Thank you for your honesty, for dealing with hard subjects and most of all, for pointing us to God and His Word.

  5. What a blessing your list is. Praise God for how he is working in all your lives!
    Just this week as I was pitying my own thankless situation, I rememberd to do my work picturing that it was actually God in my home that I was scrubbing, cleaning, taking care of. (I know he is always present) Funny how the work became pleasurable. Ephesians 6:7

  6. Barbara, thanks for this article. I am going to print it out and re-read it regularly. I appreciate your transparency and courage in writing about the subject. It helped me quite a bit to know that others struggle in this area too.

  7. This is just wonderful! I am not a caregiver at this point, but do find myself feeling resentful about other life situations. Your list and verses apply perfectly to those situations as well. Thank you for writing this and for your godly example!

  8. You have no idea how much I need this. I am printing it off and saving it to refer back to. My Grandmother is starting to show signs of dementia. LOTS of them. She is becoming very difficult and I resent having her because she has THREE capable sons. I’m still working and raising my family. But I am going to refer to this list and try very hard to “work through it” because I don’t think it is something I can “over come” either. Thank you Barbara!

  9. Oh, Barbara! This post hit me right between the eyes! I am dealing with this very thing and the guilt of feeling that way. I know that having Mom live with me is the right thing to do and I would rather have her with me than in a facility. And there may be a time when I will no longer be able to take care of her by myself. Thank you for your openness and transparency. Your post really ministered to me. God bless.

  10. I appreciate your honesty here, Barbara. I can imagine that everyone would feel many of those things frequently in your shoes. It’s a tough calling. I also appreciate you sharing the ways that you fight against the resentment; those are valuable and helpful, not just for resentment in this situation, but applicable across the board.

  11. “… this is not a hindrance to our ministry: it is our ministry.” Wow. Your words are so important. I care for my MIL too, although we are blessed that she can afford caregivers and we can continue our weekend ministry and even abroad as we are right now for a month teaching and training leaders in the island country of Malta. But when I am “home” it isn’t home at all and I have begun to resent it very much and at times, her 😦 She has beginning Alzheimer’s and is very rude, cranky and hateful, more so to the caregivers than to me but we have had our “times”.

    She also has a colostomy that no one else in the family will learn to do except her daughter and me. “We wouldn’t want to invade Mother’s privacy..” is the excuse they give. Trust me, she threw that out the window a long, long time ago and it’s her stomach for crying out loud! But you have helped me today…most of the time I keep trying to remind myself it could be me some day and I would want my kids to not resent me. I keep praying, keep asking for strength and wisdom and most of all, patience. I agree, it is the best for this time. ♥

  12. Excellent points–especially # 9 & 10. And I appreciate your honesty. My sister is the caretaker for my mother and I do respite care a week at a time. Unfortunately my sister and I live in different states. It is hard to provide 24/7 care (although we have a caregiver come in once a week). It is hard to respond to the changes that take place with dementia. We need the Lord’s help.

  13. Barbara, this was a really good post and thoughts. Though we don’t have a parent living with us, both of my parents are in their 80’s and not in good health and it is starting to take more time to help them out and just be there for them. I think a lot of these points hit home for my situation too.

  14. Barbara, it’s so lovely to “meet you” through Thought-Provoking Thursday today. Thank you for sharing this very helpful post with us. Our family is just coming out of an extended 5-year period of care giving. Your # 10 especially resonated with me. We had to step down from serving at church, but I told my husband that God had obviously appointed us to a new ministry as caregivers.

  15. Very good content, here. I believe your spiritual applications are so good. We have talked about what we could or couldn’t do, should our parents need help. I really enjoyed reading this post and all the godly advice.

  16. Well. I don’t really have anything to say except that I’m going to think on this and try to remember it. I appreciate you writing out your honest thoughts here so that I can learn from them! And some of this can be applied to young children….who I love and adore but grow weary in the well doing from time to time. In which case, pretty much everything you said here holds true.

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