Serving as a caregiver for an aging loved one can be a rewarding and life-changing positive experience. But there will also be days when you feel impatient, frustrated and guilty. Guilt comes about when we do, say or think something that we know is wrong. For example, when you’re taking care of an at-home senior you may perceive you’re not spending enough quality time with them. Or conversely, no matter how hard you try, their health just seems to get worse. If left unchecked, caregiver guilt can eat you up inside. It can also cause serious health problems like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and insomnia. Coping mechanisms to overcome guilt are needed before you reach that point. The good news is that there are several proven methods available.
Sources of Caregiver Guilt
Caregiver guilt comes from numerous sources, including these:
- Not showing enough attention to your spouse and/or children
- Feeling bad because you took some “me” time off
- Getting impatient or even angry towards the care recipient
- Their health is not improving in-spite-of all the attention you’re giving them (“rescue syndrome”)
- You feel tired and unable to keep up with your own household duties
- You’re starting to resent the one you’re caring for and have thoughts of your life being better by placing them in a nursing home
- Not investing more time taking care of your aging loved one
- Resenting your siblings because they aren’t doing their “fair share”
If you can relate to one or more of these, you are suffering from caregiver guilt. Again, that guilt can fester inside and push your mind and body to the breaking point if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to overcome caregiver guilt before it takes you over.
Ward Off Guilt Using these Steps
If you’re feeling guilty as a caregiver take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. Many fellow caregivers experience that emotion at one time or another. With that said, there are several methods to ward off guilt and ensure better care of yourself and your loved one. Those include:
Stay Real About “Rescuing” others
As we age our health deteriorates, and no matter what you do you can’t cure your loved one when it happens to them. Focus on what you can do to make them feel happy, loved and comfortable.
Don’t Fight the Guilt
Guilt is a natural human emotion that’s built into our DNA. You’re always going to feel like you could be doing more for your loved one, but that gap between what is possible and what you think you should be doing causes guilt. Learn to accept your limitations.
Live a Balanced Life
Most caregivers also have jobs, families, households and friendships to juggle. And although you’ll be devoting a lot of time and energy to your caregiving, you also can’t neglect your other responsibilities and relationships. Sitting down over coffee with your spouse or best friend allows you to take time for yourself, decompress, and stay grounded.
Don’t Let Guilt Motivate You
We oftentimes do things we normally don’t want to do because we’re feeling guilty, and that breeds resentment. Don’t allow guilt to be your motivating factor for taking care of a loved one. Instead, use positive motivation based on the importance of providing the care, along with how much it benefits your loved one whether they tell you so, or not.
It’s Okay to Be Hesitant
Self-criticism leading to guilt is c