Experiencing guilt as a caregiver is very common as it can push you to be the best or it can impede how you execute your duties. Caregiver guilt is often as a result of unmet expectations because of a mismatch between the ideal or model caregiver and your day-to-day reality as a caregiver.
Guilt can burden you mentally and emotionally, hence drastically reducing the quality of your life. This article discusses the signs of caregiver guilt and how you can overcome it.
Signs of Caregiver Guilt
Feeling there’s not enough time to give care
It can be difficult to be away when a loved one needs you which makes you feel guilty for not being there as often as you would want because you have other responsibilities. This guilt could result in cutting back on your free time to give care.
Constant criticism and lack of appreciation from the care receiver
The person receiving care could have certain expectations that you are realistically unable to meet, so they start saying things that make you feel guilty for not doing enough or spending more time with them.
Overwhelming inadequacy as a caregiver
Sometimes you will compare yourself with professional caregivers, feel like you are not doing enough, and start experiencing guilt. The lack of experience to manage your loved one’s condition can also result in guilt especially when they do not seem to show any improvement. You may also feel like you have let them and other family members down.
Care giving turns into a dreadful obligation
If you are the primary caregiver in the family, you may start to feel overwhelmed and begin losing interest in care giving. You start to experience boredom, disgust towards the care receiver, or feel embarrassed over some of your tasks as a caregiver.
Guilt over the decision to take a loved one for specialized care in a hospital, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.
Missed signs or symptoms can result in guilt as you begin to blame yourself for not being keen enough to notice changes in your loved one.
Experiencing burnout and stress through mental and physical exhaustion, declining health, and neglecting self-care.
Overcoming Caregiver Guilt
Take a break
When you start experiencing any of the above signs of caregiver guilt, it is important to take a break. You can ask for help from your family members, friends, or opt for respite services.
Accept that you are doing your best
Be kind to yourself and the effort you are making in providing care. Avoid comparing yourself with other caregivers based on the little information you have about their situation and your daily care giving reality.
Find a reliable support system
You can join an online support group to gain insights on care giving or have a safe space to share your experiences or shortcomings. Talking to a friend also helps as well as professional therapy. Journaling can also help you offload some of the care giving frustrations.
Know and accept when it’s time to seek specialized care or professional home care
When your loved one is barely showing signs of improvement or experiencing discomfort and specialized care might help, it is important to accept that it’s the best decision for their health and well-being.
Sharing what you feel over the decision with a healthcare practitioner or a professional home caregiver can make it easier for you to process the guilt and even reassure you that your loved one is in safe hands.
Accept that there will be highs and lows
Care giving will not come easy, there are days you will feel like you are doing your best and on other days you might feel like a complete failure. Learn how to control your emotions as it will help you remain in control of any eventualities allowing you to manage them better. Create a backup plan, seek help or a second opinion and try again. It’s a learning process and you will get better.
Identify your source of guilt
It is important to know what causes your guilt feelings so that you can work towards a goal-oriented transformation. For instance, assessing the mismatch between the ideal caregiver you want to be and your current reality as a caregiver. Look into what unmet needs you may have, what actions you need to change and if necessary, take some time off care giving (Hit the reset button).
Learn to be patient with yourself and the care receiver. You will not get everything right all the time so, take it easy. If you are dealing with a difficult care receiver, be patient with them by trying to understand what aggravates them and talking to them about how you can improve as a caregiver. For behavior or psychological changes due to the patient’s condition, find resources or activities that will help them relax. You can also involve the family or a specialized therapist for the care receiver.
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