Family caregivers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders. After all, they’re responsible for the well-being and care of a loved one. Most of the time, family caregivers are just happy to make it through the day without an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. Fatigue often leads to caregiver burnout which negatively affects a caregiver’s health and increases stress.
What is Caregiver Guilt
Caregivers often carry around the guilt that they aren’t doing enough for their loved ones. Guilt makes the role of caregiving even more stressful than it already is. Some reasons a caregiver may feel guilt is:
- Resentment for personal time lost
- Unresolved issues stemming from childhood or arguments in the past
- Comparing yourself to others
- Knowing placement is inevitable – There can be tremendous guilt involved when a caregiver has to place their loved one in assisted living or a nursing home.
- Dealing with your own issues – You may be dealing with personal or health problems yourself, which takes away from your caregiving responsibilities.
- Everyone in your family is relying on you to be the caregiver
- You’re upset you didn’t recognize symptoms sooner
- Taking care of a loved one has become a dreaded obligation, you are embarrassed or disgusted by their behavior
- You’ve had to put your parent in an assisted living or nursing home
Symptoms of Caregiver Guilt
Guilty feelings about your shortcomings as a caregiver can manifest themselves in many harmful ways. These include:
- Basic burnout
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Other parts of your life are falling apart
- Anger and stress
- Depression and lethargy
Tips for Caregivers to Combat Guilt
Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy ways to manage adverse feelings.
Do Not Neglect Your Own Needs
Getting lost in regular care for another person is easy to do. As a result, caregivers tend to neglect their own personal needs. Recognize if you are neglecting your own needs.
Find time during your day to check-in with yourself.
- Have you explored and addressed any hidden feelings?
- Are you growing resentful over time towards your loved one or other family members?
- Are you personally getting enough sleep, food, and socialization?
- Would taking a few minutes to meditate or relax help you in the moment?
Practice Radical Acceptance
Consider practicing the art of radical acceptance and gratitude. Certain situations and realities are entirely out of your control. Learning to accept the situation and continue on is a great way to manage caregiver guilt. The important thing to note here is that whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities.
Set Realistic Expectations
In addition to accepting a situation for what it is, it is important to recognize your shortcomings and limits. Caregivers often hold themselves to impossible standards and expect perfection. Negative thoughts can assume you are not spending enough time caring and don’t prioritize your loved one. Managing your expectations can ensure you don’t burn out and are compassionate with yourself.
- Are you fully equipped and have the capacity to be a caregiver?
- Do you have your own family to care for?
- Are you volunteering in other areas of your life?
- Do you have another job?
- Can you really do [fill in the blank] for your loved one as often as you thought you could?
- Set expectations for yourself and communicate them clearly to those in your care. Maybe they are the ones pressuring you to be the superhero caregiver.
Find a caregiver support group
Talking to others and sharing experiences can help you feel stable in your feelings. Finding a strong group can help caregivers learn from their mistakes and pick up tips that make their jobs easier. Additionally, it’s always recommended to find a community that understands what you are going through and does not diminish your feelings or experiences.
Finding an equilibrium between your concerns as a caregiver and what is in the best interest of your loved one can be challenging. Caregiver guilt is inevitable but with mindfulness and intention, caregivers can learn to release guilt. Above all, remember that you can’t be an effective family caregiver if you don’t take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally.