Do you regularly provide care for a family member in need of ongoing daily assistance? If so, then you know how overwhelming it can be when feelings of anxiety, helplessness or anger creep into your mind. Caregiving can be a lonely place. It’s natural to wonder if you’re doing it right? Are you doing enough? Will you ever get your own life back? You’d like some help, but what does that look like? Do these thoughts mean you lack what it takes to do this right?
The emotions you’re experiencing can be described as caregiver guilt. Often an ignored or bypassed topic, caregiver guilt adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation for you as a caregiver. There are many causes of caregiver guilt, including:
- Feeling like you aren’t doing enough for your loved one
- Feeling guilty for neglecting yourself or other relationships due to investing so much of yourself caring for your loved one.
- Unrealistic expectations for yourself, as if you should be able to do everything needed all by yourself
- Feeling like you should be able or willing to do more since your loved one has done so much for you in the past
- Unresolved differences or hurts between you and your loved one can create barriers in caregiving and this can cause feelings of guilt or regret.
You are doing everything in your power to put others first, but the pressure and attached emotions have become a heavy burden. Find out how to deal with guilt while being the best caregiver possible. We’ll show you how to deal with guilt and why resolving it will strengthen your relationship in the long run.
What Is Caregiver Guilt?
Caregiver guilt is the feeling that you aren’t doing enough for the people under your care. It comes from within and the constant pressure you put on yourself. Taking care of family members isn’t easy for anyone, and it can be especially taxing on the caregiver. The emotional response to the burden can build over time and if not dealt with can cause serious problems. Dealing with guilt and other emotions you experience as a caregiver will pay off in the long run. Caregiver guilt might stem from comparing your experience to others or setting unattainable expectations. It can also be caused by recognizing that your own immediate family is suffering or that you’re not able to serve them and care for them as you would like because caring for your elder family member is taxing you so heavily. It might feel like dread over small things and embarrassment to ask for help.
While caregiver guilt carries a heavy emotional weight, it shows up in a variety of emotions. You might feel anger or immense sadness. You might be more irritable and have less patience for other people in your life. Other physical manifestations include:
- Constant stomach pain from feeling overwhelmed
- Stress-induced fatigue or insomnia
- Gaining or losing weight
- Skin conditions like rash or acne due to stress and poor self-care.
These symptoms can lead to health complications later on. You need to take care of yourself and be the best version of yourself to deliver the best care. It’s important to remember you cannot take care of anyone else if you’re not well too.
What Should You Consider Before Accepting Full-time Caregiver Responsibilities?
Why Are You The Best Person For This Role?
There is a natural tendency to assume the primary caregiver role. We often think it’s our responsibility as the eldest child or only child and don’t think anyone else would be up for the task. Before you volunteer, ask yourself a few questions.
- Are you becoming a primary caregiver to ease any guilt?
- Do you willingly want to do this, or do you feel like you have no choice?
- Is your schedule flexible?
- Are you patient?
- Are you interested?
It’s not selfish to stop and answer these quick questions. You’ll be able to make better decisions if you start this role with a clear conscience and open mind.
Are You Financially Able To Be A Primary Caregiver?
Depending on your level of involvement, can you support yourself financially while taking care of someone else? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you prepared to schedule your life around your elderly relative’s appointments, errands, or physical therapy?
- Will they be helping you to cover your own cost of living (rent, gas, insurance)?
- Who else depends on your income? Will their quality of life change?
- Do you have savings or a retirement plan for your future?
Don’t sacrifice your future to become a full-time caregiver if you are not financially stable. Instead of creating more burdens or stress in your life, discuss with other relatives, friends, or peers in the community and find out about financial aid or relief available.
What Other Responsibilities Do You Currently Have?
Accepting full responsibility for your elderly parents or relatives is time-consuming. Your life will begin to revolve around another person’s needs and schedules. It involves scheduling doctor appointments, running errands, cleaning their living space, and hopefully still having quality time together.
Do you currently have responsibilities that require your attention? Are they something you can pass along to another person/colleague? Are there any repercussions to passing these responsibilities to someone else?
How Can You Manage Your Caregiver Guilt?
You can’t stop yourself from experiencing your emotions, but you can learn how to deal with guilt and coping mechanisms.
1. Acknowledge & Acceptance
Don’t forget; you’re only human. These feelings are natural, and if you acknowledge them, you can get the help you need quickly. Don’t force yourself to carry this feeling secretly or with shame. This mentality will only increase the guilt and lower your mental health.
Are you putting more pressure on yourself because of past grievances? Does being a full-time caregiver now feel like absolution? Release this guilt by starting a conversation with your relative or finding a therapist and work on things holding you back.
2. Make Time For Yourself
This can look like a cup of coffee in a quiet cafe, reading a book, working out, or catching up with a friend. These small moments will fill up your inner happiness and make you feel more settled later when you are feeling stressed.
Don’t say no to help. You aren’t the only person that can run errands or help clean. It’s a sign of support that your other family members or friends want to be there for you. You don’t need to be strong or do this all by yourself.
3. Find A Support Group
You are not the only one in this situation, and finding a sense of strength and community will help. You’ll be able to lean on others and find out what works best for them to de-stress. We suggest finding a group as specific as possible. For instance, if you are the primary caregiver for someone with dementia, find a specific group that helps with that. Speaking up doesn’t make you disloyal to the person you are supporting.
4. This Is Hard – But You Are Not Alone
12 Oaks Senior Living offers a solution that has worked wonderfully for many caregivers. Let our community teams come alongside to work with and for you! Moving an elder family member into a senior community can be the best option for everyone and doesn’t reflect on your inability to care for them. By providing them with 24/7 support and dedicated care, you are putting your relationships first, allowing you to reignite your primary family role as a daughter, son or other close relative.
When you take care of yourself as a caregiver, you increase and strengthen your ability to care for others.
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Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour.