Let me assure you: many people who act as primary caregivers for their elderly parents or loved ones experience caregiver guilt at some point. It may be due to a demanding senior who doesn’t recognize the other responsibilities you have in your life. It could be caused by a sense of perfectionism, making you feel like you are never quite good enough. Perhaps you are the only one of your siblings who stepped up to help an aging mother or father. The point is that any variety of reasons can cause caregiver guilt, but you can change the way you feel to take better care of yourself and your loved one.
Why Do You Feel Guilty?
Caregivers struggle with finding balance between providing care for their loved ones and taking care of themselves, but caregiving is not an either/or situation. While you take care of your loved one’s needs, you should be concerned with your own health and well-being. Because of guilt, however, you may choose not to do something for yourself or give yourself a break. When you neglect your own care, you may feel resentful or wish that your caregiving responsibilities could end. Those negative feelings can lead to guilt and even put you at risk for depression if you don’t address them.
Stop and Think
You don’t have to feel guilty for your feelings; when you acknowledge how you feel, you can reflect on the cause of your guilt and how you can address it in a positive way. Caregiver guilt is a normal feeling when faced with the many responsibilities you have, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, you can make a choice to either feel bad or feel motivated to make some changes to reduce your stress, gain support, and even improve the quality time you have with your senior.
You Shall Overcome
How do you stop feeling guilty? Think about guilt like you would any behavior or habit you want to change. It is a process, and it takes time, but it’s worth it for your wellbeing and your relationship with your loved one. Accept that negative feelings are just as valid as positive ones, and then allow yourself to experience those feelings so that you can move past them. You should find ways to maintain balance in your life, such as scheduling time for exercise, a massage, a night out with friends, or a weekend getaway. You work hard, and you deserve it.
You may also want to join a support group with other caregivers who understand what you are going through and share what they do to take care of themselves. Asking for help from other family members (and being specific with how they can help you) is another way to lessen your load. If you don’t have anyone who can step up and help, you should look into respite care to give yourself a break when you need one.
Finally, try to let go of your perfectionism, and set boundaries so that you don’t take on more than you can handle. Remind yourself that there are moments of joy to be had even in adversity, and find the patience to experience and appreciate them. Give yourself permission to let some things go and focus on the essential tasks, which in turn can free up time that you can use for self-care.
Hopefully, these tips can help you feel less guilty and focus on yourself without the burden of caregiver guilt.