Letting Go of Caregiver Guilt: 5 Tips for Family Caregivers
Caregivers make up a huge and under-acknowledged portion of our population. 65.7 million adults in the United States are currently tasked with providing care to a loved one that can’t take care of themselves – that’s 29% of the adult population.
The millions of people in our country currently devoting a significant portion of their time and energy to caring for an ill or aging loved one are intimately familiar with the emotional toll it can take. Among the many other difficult and complicated emotions caregivers must deal with, many of them find themselves regularly plagued by guilt.
The Guilt of Being a Caregiver
You love the person you’re taking care of, but you work so hard to make sure they have everything they need that you end up feeling exhausted and resentful of the toll the work is taking on your life. Caregiver guilt can come from many causes, some of them contradictory:
- You feel guilty for not spending enough time with the person you’re taking care of.
- You feel guilty for not spending more time with the rest of your family.
- You feel guilty for the annoyance or resentment you feel at the work you must perform.
- You feel guilty for not pulling your weight at work.
- You feel guilty for thinking about other concerns like work, stress, and finances when your loved one needs you.
- You feel guilty for feeling guilty.
All of these are natural feelings to have, but they’re ones you need to address in order to keep from letting them weigh you down.
How to Deal with Caregiver Guilt
A feeling like guilt is complicated; so there’s no one right way to address it. But each of these suggestions could help you with overcoming the guilt you feel now and possibly avoiding the feeling in days to come.
1. Give yourself permission to feel upset about the situation.
Caregiving is tough. It can really complicate your relationship with the person you love and the feelings you have for them throughout the day. And that’s ok. Let yourself be upset, but make a commitment not to revel in the disappointment or difficulty of the situation. The person you’re taking care of is still someone important to you whose company you value. Make sure that doesn’t get lost in all the rest.
2. Find a community.
Humans are social animals and that social need only becomes more pronounced when you’re going through something difficult. If you don’t have something like a large family or church group to lean on, look into a local caregiver support group. You need people to talk to about what you’re dealing with, and that you can turn to for help when it all gets to be too much.
3. Talk to a therapist.
The pressures of caregiving can lead to levels of stress that are bad for your health, or can even plunge you into a depression. You have to take care of yourself as well as your loved one and for many people therapy is an important step in self-care. A therapist will help talk you through the difficult emotions you feel and develop coping mechanisms for dealing with the hardest parts of caregiving.
4. Devote some time to enjoying each other’s company.
When there are so many chores and healthcare tasks to be performed each day, it becomes easy to forget about taking a break to just enjoy being with the person you love. Make this something you commit to every day – just like helping them dress or making meals – make spending an hour or two watching TV, playing games, or doing something together that you’ve always enjoyed in the past a required part of every day.
5. Consider hiring someone.
You don’t have to do it all alone. And if it’s taking a toll on your job and other relationships, you shouldn’t. Look into the local options for in-home care and assisted living. You’re not betraying your loved one by handing over some of their care to a professional. At a certain point, doing so is the best thing you can do for the both of you and your relationship.
Many caregivers just try to put too much on themselves. You can’t do everything, and you can’t even do most of everything without some help – whether from other family members, your community, hiring some in-home care, using respite care, or any other resources you find to tap into. Don’t be ashamed to give up some of the caregiving duties and ask for help. It’s often the most responsible choice a caregiver can make.
Are you a caregiver?
Enter our Family Caregiver Photo Contest on Facebook this November and you could win an iPad!