Commentator Morton Kondracke
is the primary caregiver
for his wife, Milly,
who has Parkinson’s.
In his book Saving Milly,
he writes that he has tried
to be loving, patient, and supportive
ever since her diagnosis in 1988.
Largely he has succeeded, but not always.
Especially frustrating were those times
she would try walking by herself
when she wasn’t supposed to,
wasn’t able to.
She would fall and hurt herself
and he had to come running.
“Even though she was in pain,” he writes,
“and deserved comfort,
I’d explode in fear and anger:
‘I told you not to do that!'”
It upset him greatly to find her sprawled
on the floor, bruised and bleeding,
which happened a number of times.
It angered him that she would endanger
her health in that way,
so frequently, so unnecessarily.

Not all caregivers are as honest
about their feelings of anger.
How do we reconcile
our wish to be loving toward someone
with our impulses to rant and rave at them?
Perhaps they’ve done something dangerous.
Maybe they’ve been demanding
or belligerent, unreasonably so.
Maybe they’ve acted rudely
or said especially hurtful things,
uncharacteristically so.
In such a situation a common response is
to be frustrated or annoyed or downright mad.
This happens more often than many realize
or want to admit.
A 2002 national study documented
that family caregivers tend to evidence
higher levels of hostility than noncaregivers.
So the word is out to those who give care:
anger happens.
It goes with the territory.
When two people are in such constant contact,
and when they have so much to deal with,
such feelings aren’t just to be expected—
they’re virtually unavoidable.
While these feelings may be directed
toward the one in our care,
they may also be directed
toward physicians and nurses,
toward anyone who is less than
helpful or understanding,
toward God.
In reality the true source of our anger
is more likely what’s causing the unwanted changes
in this person we love and care for,
not to mention the unwanted circumstances
in which we now find ourselves.
Consequently, anger is not bad
any more than we are bad
for feeling upset and frustrated at times.
Anger is a sign we’re involved.
It’s a sign we care deeply.
It’s an indication that we have feelings too.
And it’s proof we’re perfectly human,
perfectly normal.

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