Few roles in life are as complex as that of a family caregiver. The rewards of caring for someone you love are tough to put into words. The days can be meaningful and the bonds you build bring a true sense of purpose. Caregiving may also give families a chance to reconnect, especially those who’ve been separated by long distances. But there are also challenges, both physical and emotional, that come from being a family caregiver.
From stress to extreme fatigue, the demands of caregiving can take a toll on a person’s health. Then there is guilt. For many spouses and adult children, there are often feelings of guilt. Caregivers may feel as if they aren’t doing a good job, that they will miss something important, or that they should be doing more. Some experience too much guilt to enjoy themselves if they take a night off and ask a friend to stay with their family member.
One more emotional struggle people caring for a loved one experience, but are reluctant to admit, is resentment. Being a caregiver can become a 24/7 job that leaves little time for anything else in life. While it’s perfectly normal for a caregiver to resent this situation, many don’t realize that.
For families who end up encouraging their loved one to move to assisted living, there is an added layer of remorse. Even when they know it’s a move that helps the older adult maintain their quality of life, a spouse or adult child might berate themselves for not handling care on their own.
What can you do when the guilt you feel becomes overwhelming? We have a few ideas that might help improve your mental health.
Ways to Overcome Caregiver Guilt
- Connect with peers: Try to connect with people experiencing similar struggles via a caregiver support group. Not only will it help you realize that the fears and worries you have common, but you may also find ways to manage the demands of caregiving more effectively. For example, if you feel that a parent’s primary care physician just doesn’t listen, a member of your caregiver support group might have a recommendation for another doctor who is good with senior patients. A good resource to consider is the Family Caregiver Alliance. Among their many tools and articles, they have options for finding an online support group or forum.
- Take regular breaks: It may seem difficult to do, but it’s important to take time off from caregiving on a routine basis. Lunch or dinner with friends, an hour or so to get a manicure or pedicure, or just an evening walk around the block. Doing so will help reduce stress and make you a better, more patient caregiver. If you don’t have anyone who can stay with your family while you take a break, look around for community resources. Religious organizations and senior centers often have volunteers who make friendly visits to homebound people. It’s also worth a phone call to a local agency on aging. This community resource can typically provide options to support caregivers.
- Explore introductory stays: When you are caring for a senior who cannot stay alone, it’s important to your own mental and physical well-being to take more than a few hours off. A long weekend to enjoy time with your kids or a week away to rest on the beach can help restore your mind, body, and spirit. This is where an introductory stay at an assisted living or memory care community can be of support. These programs allow a senior to stay at the community for a few days or weeks. Visitors enjoy the same services and amenities as long-term residents do. Caregivers can relax knowing their family member is in good hands.
Sunrise communities from coast-to-coast offer introductory stays. Call (844) 686-6634 to learn what is available near you!