Guilt is an emotion most family caregivers recognize all too well. It’s that haunting, nagging feeling deep in your soul that you aren’t doing everything you can as well as you can. While guilt can be a tremendous motivator, it’s one of the most destructive emotions caregivers deal with. If not managed properly, guilt increases a caregiver’s risk of depression and will ultimately compromise their ability to take care of their loved one. If you’re a caregiver struggling with these complex and difficult emotions, know you’re not alone and it is possible to work through your guilt to be the best caregiver possible. Here are a few tips to start you on that journey.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
To begin, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings. Many caregivers are inclined to push feelings of guilt away because they don’t think they should feel them in the first place. Instead, recognize guilt as a natural and valid part of the caregiving experience. If anything, feelings of guilt are a sign of just how much you do care.
Identify the Source of Your Feelings
Once you’ve accepted your guilt, it’s important to identify its source. Guilt typically means you don’t feel like your actions or behavior match your expectations for yourself. So start by taking an inventory of your life to try and determine where you think you’re falling short. Do you feel as though you’re neglecting some part of your caregiving duties? Are you spending less time with your family and friends because you’re taking care of someone else? Did you behave in a way towards your older relative that you now regret? Understanding the source of your feelings is an important way to determine if you really can or should be doing more or if you’re just holding yourself up to an impossible standard.
Remember Not Everything is Possible
After you’ve dug a little deeper into the source of your guilty feelings, it’s important to determine if you’re holding yourself up to unrealistic expectations. Ask yourself, “does my guilt stem from something I failed to do or is it the result of a situation outside my control?” Perhaps, for example, you feel guilty because you can’t afford to pay for your mother’s skilled nursing. Or, you feel as though you don’t visit your older loved one enough. Remember, there’s only so much time in the day and only a limited number of resources you can harness. Holding onto guilt over things you can’t control doesn’t do you any good.
Build a Support System
There’s nothing worse that struggling with feelings few other people understand. That’s why the role of caregiver is often so lonely. It’s difficult to describe to others what the job is like if they’ve never done it themselves. But holding guilt in is just too harmful. That’s why caregivers must build a support system they can lean on when times get tough. Whenever possible, turn to your church, turn to your close friends, turn to family and share your feelings. Even if they don’t understand exactly what you’re going through, the simple act of listening can be a tremendous support.
If you’d like to talk with other caregivers about your experiences and the feelings they generate, consider joining a local caregiver support group. You can use online tools to find groups in your area filled with compassionate people who know exactly what you’re going through.
Take a Break
Sometimes the best way to deal with guilt is to get away from it for a while. Taking a break from your caregiving duties will provide an opportunity to recharge your batteries and reset expectations. So whenever possible, have a friend or family member pick of the slack for an evening so you can tend to your own needs. If necessary, you can also hire a professional caregiver to provide short term respite care. These trained professionals can tend to your loved one’s needs for a few hours at a time or over the course of a few days. Then, you can get out and run those errands you’ve been neglecting or maybe even get away for a long weekend. Arizona residents can contact Generations Home Care for qualified respite services.
While it may be impossible to completely avoid feeling guilt as a caregiver, you can’t allow yourself to be overcome by them. Instead, recognize these feelings as a natural part of the caregiving process and work to put them behind you. Then, you can do your important work free from the troubling emotions that don’t help you or your loved one.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.