Many family caregivers find their role rewarding but are often stretched too thin. They juggle caring for a loved one with the demands of a career and providing support for other family members that rely on them.
And then there are the challenges many caregivers don’t talk about: the guilt and fear that they are failing everyone.
What Causes Caregiver Guilt?
Family caregivers experience guilt for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Being angry about the amount of time caring for a loved one requires, and then feeling guilty for this anger
- Resenting not having time to spend with friends and to attend favorite social activities
- Feeling as if they are letting everyone down, including their children, their employer, and the senior they care for
- Being criticized by a senior who has unrealistic demands and expectations for the caregiver
- Believing that they should be doing more because they can’t make it through their endless “to do” list each day
Wherever the guilt comes from, experts say the caregiver who is experiencing it is probably suffering from overload.
Steps to Help Overcome Caregiver Guilt
We have a few suggestions that you might find useful:
1. Learn the warning signs of caregiver overload.
Understand that caregiver guilt is normal and you are not alone. Many others feel the same way from time to time, and it might help to join a support group. But if you feel that way all of the time, it could be a sign of caregiver overload. Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver overload is important in preventing a serious case of burnout.
Listen to what memory care expert Rita Altman has to say about caregiver burnout in this episode of The Senior Caregiver podcast.
2. Join a caregivers support group.
Connecting with a group of fellow caregivers is another step you can take toward overcoming guilt. You will likely hear your peers express struggles similar to yours. Knowing your feelings and emotions are normal can make a big difference in managing caregiver guilt.
There are many online caregiver support groups available to help make it even easier on your busy schedule. You can find one by visiting the Family Caregiver Alliance online.
3. Don’t try to do it all on your own.
Asking for and accepting help for specific tasks can help you gain both time and perspective. Both can help you better manage the stress, anxiety, and fear that often leads to caregiver guilt.
If you don’t have any family members or friends who can pitch in, consider respite services for a temporary rest which in the long run will strengthen your ability to be a good caregiver. Home care agencies or senior living communities, such as Sunrise, are great options for short term respite care for your loved one.
4. Do something positive for yourself each day.
While this one might feel like a luxury a busy caregiver, recognize that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of a loved one. Take 10 to 15 minutes once a day to do something positive like chair yoga at your desk, meditation, calling a friend, or writing in your journal. The perspective you gain from doing so will likely help decrease the guilt you are feeling.
5. Practice positive self-talk.
When you beat yourself up every day about every little thing, you can create a cycle of negative self-talk. This can further contribute to feelings of guilt and self-doubt about how you are managing your caregiver role.
Instead, make an all-out effort to stop negative self-talk. Replace it with reminders of all you do for those around you each day.
Caregiver Support at Sunrise
The Sunrise Blog is packed with tips and advice for family caregivers, and we update it several times each week. We encourage you to bookmark it and stop back often!