If you’re feeling negative emotions when caring for an elderly loved one, you are not alone. For many, the demands of caregiving are only deepened by a sense of guilt—and often the worry that we aren’t doing enough, providing enough, or taking care of everything that requires our attention.
There are many forms of caregiver guilt, depending on the caregiver’s life circumstances. For many, the guilt is a result of our sense of responsibility for things we feel we could’ve changed for the better—even if the events or choices were outside our control. And when the complicated challenges of caring for an elderly loved one may not go as planned, our guilt makes us shoulder the disappointment and self-blame in how things turned out.
If you’re feeling caregiver guilt, the following statements may sound familiar:
- We feel guilty we don’t spend enough time without loved ones, or that we spend too much time with them at the expense of others.
- We feel guilty for moving our loved ones into a senior facility or assisted living, or that we’re hurting them and others by keeping them in their own home or moving them into our family’s home.
- We feel guilty for own feelings: for resenting the burden of caregiving, for frustration at our parent’s limits, and for being selfish if we do prioritize our own needs.
Caregiver guilt is almost unavoidable. Our care and desire to make the best choices for our loved ones means that we can hold ourselves to high standards of behavior—and blame ourselves when the stress of caregiving shows on our careers, family life, or mental health.
But there are steps you can take to mitigate your unwarranted feelings of guilt. Relying on others, taking time for self-care, and focusing on the positive helps you balance your emotions. And a happier, healthier caregiver can provide better care.
Tip 1: Accept Help
The first step to alleviating guilt is to rid yourself of the expectation that you need to handle everything on your own. Reach out to other family members, or even consider hiring a caretaker to provide care and companionship when you can’t. If those options aren’t available, think about which errands in your personal life can be delegated or hired out. While paying for supermarket delivery or extra cleaning help may seem selfish, the benefits of your ease of mind will go a long way.
Tip 2: Remove the “Should”
As a caregiver, your to-do list is full of “shoulds” for every minute of the day, but it may be time to renovate that list. Make a chart of “shoulds” and “needs,” and categorize all your tasks honestly. You may find that some of your most difficult or time-consuming tasks are “shoulds”, such as taking Mom for her doctor appointments, that can be delegated or given up to make way for the most important needs without compromising on your caregiving.
Tip 3: Focus on the Positive
Guilt has a way of keeping you focused on the things you haven’t done right, but you can keep negative feelings at bay with mindfulness and self-reflection. Keep in mind, your goal is to keep your loved ones safe and provided for—and no one can truly “do it all”. Take the time to reflect on your accomplishments, to give yourself positive reinforcement, and to reassure yourself that the caregiving role is a challenging one for anyone—and your efforts go a long way to keeping your loved one happy and healthy.
Tip 4: Do For Yourself, Too.
There’s no quicker way to drain your emotional health than denying yourself the habits that keep you happy, healthy, and upbeat. When your schedule is full, it’s tempting to sideline your gym hours, social life, or even just some “me time”. But going for too long without any space for yourself will only leave you angrier, stressed, and unable to stretch yourself further. Put your self-care on your to-do list to keep it a priority, and focus on getting in your personal time—even if that means removing other tasks from the list (takeout is fine for dinner, sometimes!)
Tip 5: Find Support
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people in the same boat as you—or ready to offer an understanding ear. Search online for support groups in your area, or ask friends and family if they know a fellow caregiver. Speaking to others lets you share stories, tips, or even just enjoy the company of someone facing the same challenges with positivity and a healthy mindset.
Caregiving can be overwhelming. But when it comes to making the right decisions for your loved one, finding trusted home care shouldn’t be. Learn more about finding compassionate caregivers focused on dignity and quality of life by reaching out to Community Home Health Care at 845.425.6555. We’re always happy to answer any questions and connect you with the right care for your family.