May 22, 2017
Caregiver guilt is normal. Here’s advice for how to handle it in a healthy, positive way so both you and your senior loved one can enjoy spending time together.
It’s amazing that, amidst a population who does so much for others, you will find so much guilt. We’re talking about the family caregiver community who give and give until they become exhausted and burned out. Sometimes even putting their own health in jeopardy. Then they feel guilty for being so overwhelmed.
Why Does Caregiver Guilt Exist?
But why in the world would someone who has, quite literally, rearranged their life in order to take care of a senior loved one, feel guilty?
Common reasons for caregiver guilt include:
- feeling that they’re not spending enough time with other members of the family
- feeling angry about their senior loved one’s overwhelming amount of needs
- sometimes it’s even their senior loved one’s unmet expectations that fuel the guilt
Caregivers often catch themselves thinking they should be doing more. And since there’s no benchmark for knowing what constitutes ‘enough,’ those feelings can be hard to reason away. Whatever the origin of the guilt is, the person feeling it is probably spread too thin. That’s according to the folks at WebMD, who interviewed psychologists on this very topic.
Where Does This Guilt Come From?
The stress you encounter every day as a caregiver – especially if you’re the primary caregiver – can sap your energy, your calmness, your sense of balance and, if you’re not careful, your mental health. And when you’re stressed out and feeling pulled in different directions, guilt has a funny of creeping in and taking hold.
All these feelings, left unchecked, can lead to depression.
See where this is going?
Before you find yourself heading down the road to depression, take steps to deal with your guilt. Learning what coping strategies work for you will help you overcome feelings of guilt and move on to a healthier life.
Overcoming Caregiver Guilt
Here’s what to know.
1. Be Warned: Guilt is Your Wake-Up Call!
The first step is to understand that caregiver guilt is normal. Lots of people who share your role feel guilty, in fact. But they learn how to handle it before it becomes a destructive force.
For starters, they recognize guilt as a warning sign. They acknowledge it, understanding that it’s normal. They also recognize that it’s something to be dealt with head-on.
2. Remove Caregiver Guilt from the Equation
Just by reading this far, you’ve already taken a huge step towards handling your caregiver guilt. You understand it. And by understanding where guilt comes from and that you’re not alone in feeling it, you can begin to find peace.
Now it’s time to be proactive and take steps to eradicate your guilt. Here are a few things to work on towards that end:
- Find a network to help you. Delegate some of your responsibilities so you have time and energy for yourself. If you’re truly overwhelmed and can’t find support, an assisted living community might be an option. Even if it is only for a short-term respite stay.
- Replace guilt with something positive. For all those moments when you feel guilt creeping in, give yourself a mini time-out. Do 10 minutes of meditation, take a walk around the block, or just go out for coffee or some quick window shopping. The idea is to restore yourself, not wear yourself down by feeling guilty.
- Recognize that you can’t control everything. It can help to understand what’s totally out of your control, so you can stop feeling guilty about it.
- Find a caregiver support group. Yes, they do exist. You can find one online or explore those in your local community.
A Legacy of Supporting Caregivers
At Legacy Senior Living, we know a lot about caregiving and strive to nurture the caregiving community we’ve built over the years. If you found this information to be helpful, be sure to bookmark our blog and stop back often!