Caregiver Guilt

Caregiver Guilt

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

Family caregivers are some of the most unnoticed and under-appreciated caregivers there are. They juggle their work lives, their families, their wellbeing and their social life with that of their loved ones – taking them to appointments, to treatments or to the grocery store. It’s easy for a caregiver at the end of the day to feel like they haven’t done enough. Caregiver guilt is very common when caring for a loved one, but it doesn’t need to be insufferable. The stress of caregiving, if left unchecked, can take its toll on your health – mentally, emotionally and physically.

It is important to recognize the feelings of guilt, explore why you may be feeling guilty, and to find ways to try to overcome it. Caregiver stress can cause feelings of guilt if not addressed.

Common signs and symptoms related to caregiver stress are:

  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overreacting to minor upsets
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability

Here are 5 of the most common reasons for experiencing caregiver guilt, and some suggestions to overcome it:

1. I feel guilty when I can’t be with my loved one.
When Mom begs you to stay longer or visit more often, it can feel like a real guilt trip. Busy schedules, work demands and family commitments make visiting difficult. Knowing that your visits are the highlight of her otherwise lonely days only adds to the stress and keeps you from making the most of the time you do have.
How to overcome it:
Try to make the time you spend together as meaningful as possible.  When you can’t be there, consider how companionship services could help. You won’t feel as guilty leaving Mom if she has someone coming on a regular basis whose company she enjoys.

2. I feel guilty when I lose my patience.
Caregiving is a true test on anyone’s patience at some point in the caring process. Caregivers of loved ones with dementia or cognitive impairments who exhibit repetitive behaviours may find this especially true.
How to overcome it:
Patience typically wears thin when you’re worn out and have little support. If you feel like you’re reaching the end of your rope, use that as a warning sign that you need to take a break. It’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Using respite care services will give you the break you need while ensuring your loved one receives the support they need.

3. I feel guilty when I take time for myself.
Putting another person’s needs before your own may feel natural to you, as these are likely the people that raised you. In a way, you may feel like you need to “repay” them. But you can’t ignore the need to care for yourself. It’s self-defeating to feel badly about indulging in a little time to yourself.
How to overcome it:
Remind yourself that in order to be the best version of yourself, you need to be well rested, well nourished and well hydrated. You won’t be able to care for your loved one if you burn out, so taking time for yourself ensures that you can continue to be by their side when they need you most.

4. I feel guilty when I rush my loved one.
It’s easy to forget that Mom or Dad can’t eat as quickly as they used too, or get dressed as fast as you’d like. It’s also easy to snap at them to hurry up when you’re in a rush to get a move on with your day. You may feel like they are intentionally moving slowly to spite you, but when you factor in their mobility problems, illnesses, or medications, you may realize that they are just slowing down.
How to overcome it:
We are all busy. Giving care to your aging loved one is not easy, and sometimes it’s easy to want to rush through it to make time for other things in your life. But it’s important to remember that rushing your loved one can cause them to choke or fall. Take a deep breath, and if they’re seeming a bit slower than usual, ask them if they’d like assistance instead.

5. I feel guilty for getting angry or frustrated.
You may view emotions like anger or frustration as a sign of weakness. People tend to bottle up certain emotions until they become too much to manage. It can be stressful to both you and your loved one if you begin to display your negative emotions in an unhealthy way.
How to overcome it:
While it’s true that too much negativity can be toxic to those around you, it’s important that you have a safe outlet for those emotions. Vent to a friend, engage in some exercise, or find a secluded place to have a good cry. If you feel it would be beneficial, go to counselling to discuss with a neutral party. There is never any shame in talking to a professional.
If you feel that you are overwhelmed, stressed out and can’t work past your guilt, seek out someone you can talk to and share your feelings. As important as it is to take care of your loved one, it’s equally important to take care of yourself too.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since its inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

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