Caring for your parent or spouse can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also leave you feeling guilty. Guilt happens when we feel we’ve failed to meet the expectations of others and ourselves. Dealing with guilt is a normal response to the stress of being a family caregiver.
Although this is a common feeling among caregivers, being consumed by guilt can take a toll on your health and ability to care for those around you. There are ways to cope with guilt and lessen the burden so it doesn’t affect your wellbeing. Below are 6 ways to help manage caregiver guilt.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings
- Find Support
- Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
- Forgive Yourself
- Redefine Caregiving
- Learn to Let it Go
Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore guilt to make it go away. First, you have to recognize that these feelings of guilt and inadequacy are normal. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way; that will only continue the cycle. By acknowledging and accepting these emotions, you can start to cope with caregiver guilt and let it go.
Caregiving shouldn’t be a one-person responsibility. Reach out to friends and family for help, as they can be a great source of comfort and relief. It’s also helpful to share your experience with other caregivers. You can join caregiver support groups to share your stories and feelings with those who are in a similar situation.
Caregiver support groups can be found in your local community or online. If you’d like to reach out to other caregivers, consider downloading our Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care App. You can also join online caregiving support groups like caring.com or the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center.
Once you get into a particular mindset, it can be difficult to get out of it. Be mindful of how you talk to yourself and what conversations you have with your inner dialogue. If you start thinking along the lines of “I should,” “I could,” or “I ought to have,” you are starting to prey on your own insecurities. Try not to feed your guilt, and be more positive and kind to yourself. For example, if you find yourself thinking “I should have stayed longer today taking care of Mom,” remind yourself that “I can only do my best and remain loving.”
Feelings of guilt tend to be the result of refusing to accept that some things are beyond our control. It is difficult to accept that a perfect solution doesn’t exist or that we don’t have all the answers. For example, the promise to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s remain at home for as long as possible may be difficult to keep. Remember that it is impossible for a caregiver to plan for every situation and challenge that may happen.
Often, it’s comforting to believe that we can do it all and be the perfect caregiver, but that is not always possible. Feelings of guilt manifest from failing to meet high expectations, so accepting your limitations and forgiving yourself is necessary. Understanding and accepting that you can’t meet all expectations or promises can give you a more balanced perspective.
It’s incredibly difficult to shoulder the responsibility of caregiving alone. Remember that there are options to help you provide care for your loved one. While you might not always be there to physically tend to your loved one’s needs, someone else can be. Being realistic about your limitations can help relieve guilt and provide your loved one with the care they need to improve their quality of life. Identify what you can and cannot do, and find ways to fill the gaps in your loved one’s care by hiring a companion or professional caregiver to assist.
You cannot control your loved one’s disease. While this sounds like a simple concept, it can be difficult to come to grips with. It’s tempting to try and fix your loved one, but that is unfair to both them and you. The best you can do is manage their symptoms and try to help improve their quality of life. Learning to let go and stop trying to control or fix their illness will allow you to find more enjoyment in caregiving.
It is important to deal with feelings of guilt and not let them undermine the time you have with your loved one. Recognize your limitations and settle for being a good caregiver, not a perfect one. Remember to reach out to those around you and build a caregiver support group to help cope with guilty feelings.
If you are dealing with caregiver guilt and feeling stressed, remember that there are professional caregivers who can help by lending a hand. Providing the best care for your loved one should be a team effort, and we can help. Contact us today to learn about the in home care options available in your area.