3/22/2013 Q: I have feelings of guilt every day that I should be a better caregiver. I keep asking “why?” questions from “why did this happen” to “why can’t I be more patient”. I go round and round with no answers. Is this normal? Louise H., Woodstock, GA

A: Many caregivers experience “caregiver guilt” so in a way it is normal in that it is not unusual at all.

Your feelings are appropriate for you and there are ways to cope and refocus your thoughts to stay mentally healthy.  First, it’s important to examine if it is really guilt that you are feeling.  Guilt can be described as something we feel when we have caused something bad to happen or when you’ve acted or thought in some way that is contrary to your own standards.  These feelings should be closely examined for root causes. We didn’t make the person sick or to have memory impairment – so maybe it is not guilt we feel. What else could it be? Sadness, frustration, anger? Those feelings can be dealt with head on.

Here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.    Caregiving for a family member is full of emotional and physical stress.  Try to be realistic in your own expectations of what you want to accomplish each day.  If something unexpected happens, try to accept that there will always be things out of your control.
  2. Research to find guidance and information to help you decide on the best answer for things you can control.   You’ll be more confident in your decisions.
  3. Talk with someone about your feelings.  If you’re in a support group, share your emotions of grief and guilt – it’s okay.  Don’t just focus on exchanging caregiving tips.
  4. Seek out companionship from family, friends and neighbors to visit with you to combat feelings of isolation.  Invite them for coffee and conversation to focus on something other than caregiving.
  5. Refocus your “why” questions away from negative emotions into positive affirmations.  “I’m doing a very important job, I am learning and growing from this experience, and there are resources to help me when I feel overwhelmed” is an example of reframing your thoughts.
  6. Consider therapy for processing your “negative” feelings.  Speaking with a professional can be a great resource.

You can find ways to accept and deal with your emotions such as caregiver guilt.  Hang in there!

Best of luck,


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