9 Steps in Managing Family Caregiver Guilt

Too many family caregivers who work tirelessly to help their senior loved ones be healthy, stay safe and just get through each day know what guilt feels like.

Do you feel tense when you have to answer the same question 100 times a day?

Do you regret having to leave the house to get your haircut, grocery shop or keep a doctor’s appointment — or even when you just go to the bathroom or take a shower?

Do you ever get upset when you have to leave your own family to see to your senior; perhaps you miss a special event, cooking dinner for your spouse or just doing homework with your kids afterschool?

Do you feel torn between your job and your senior?  Do you wish you were at home with your elderly loved one when you are at work and dream of working when you are at home with your senior?

Do you wonder why you keep caring so much when your senior can’t remember that you came to visit that day or even who you are?

Are you worried that your best is not good enough and your hard work won’t change the inevitable?

Guilt is not an uncommon feeling in family caregivers.

Guilt often springs up when we feel that whatever choice we make in the moment is letting someone else down. Sometimes we wonder if we are doing enough or if our decisions are correct, which can lead to feelings of guilt.

How to Manage Your Caregiver Guilt

  1. As hard as it sounds, go easy on yourself; you are doing the best you can each day.
  2. Examine your feelings; see if you can determine the root cause of your guilt – are you really feeling angry, frustrated, tired, lonely, regretful or sad because you are beginning the grieving process, anticipating the ultimate loss of your loved one?
  3. Get some relief!  If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for your senior.
  4. Find emotional support from loved ones or even a support group; ask for help and involve other family members.
  5. Forgive and forget – you can’t change what happened yesterday.
  6. Share your thoughts and experiences; it will help you feel better even if it is only with yourself.
  7. Remember that your senior loved one is often not behaving as he/she normally would. It may be the disease, especially when it is Alzheimer’s dementia. Put yourself in your elder’s place to realize he or she isn’t frustrating you on purpose.
  8. Maintain a realistic level of expectation.
  9. Remember your shared love with a smile, hug, and kiss.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that every day you are making a difference in your senior loved one’s life.  You are making an impact.  Just because your elder can’t  or doesn’t thank you doesn’t mean they don’t feel grateful. Don’t allow your guilt to become an obstacle to your effectiveness or your own health!

Family caregiver, you are a hero!