Caring for a loved one is never easy, especially when you struggle with caregiver guilt. Your mind can trick you into believing that you aren’t doing enough when in reality, you’re doing the most important job there is: keeping your loved one safe and healthy.
Caregiver guilt is a common problem among unpaid family members who care for senior loved ones. Find out what it means and how to manage it so you can make the most of your time with your loved one.
What Is Caregiver Guilt?
Broadly speaking, caregiver guilt refers to the feeling that you aren’t doing enough for your loved one. This feeling often goes hand-in-hand with resentment, burnout, and comparison to others.
While caregiver guilt is normal, it doesn’t have to take over your life. You’re already giving an incredible gift to the person you love, and that’s a huge accomplishment.
Unpaid family caregivers often experience burnout at the same time as caregiver guilt. When you’re overwhelmed, it can feel like the care you provide is useless, inadequate, or unappreciated.
You don’t deserve to feel that way. Fortunately, there are ways to manage these emotions.
Tips on Managing Feelings of Caregiver Guilt
You may always experience some form of guilt — after all, you’re human. But managing your guilt can help you become the best caregiver you can be while still being kind to yourself.
1. Accept Your Guilt
It may sound counterintuitive, but accepting that you feel caregiver guilt is the first step in moving forward.
Emotions don’t go away unless and until you acknowledge them directly. If you spend all your time fighting caregiver guilt, you’re likely just adding fuel to the fire. After a while, you’ll start to focus on this guilt full-time, leading to exhaustion and burnout.
Accept the fact that you feel like you could and should be doing more for your loved one. You aren’t making these feelings come true by doing so — you’re simply giving them space to air out.
2. Emphasize Your Love
You feel caregiver guilt because you truly care about your senior loved one. This isn’t a bad thing! Your guilt shows that you’re passionate about providing care, which can be reassuring on its own.
When you reframe guilt as a deep expression of love, it becomes easier to manage.
3. Take Breaks When You Can
Ask another family member or close family friend to take over your caregiving duties whenever possible. No one can be “on” 24/7 (or should be expected to be). Not only is this unhealthy, but it may actually result in you providing the substandard care you fear.
You might initially feel even more guilty for taking breaks, but remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t possibly give your loved one the care they deserve if you’re exhausted.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help if and when you need it. There’s no shame in taking a few days off to rest and recover.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Caregivers
It’s common for family caregivers to compare themselves to paid professionals. This is a trap you should avoid at all costs.
There’s a major difference between caring for a family member and working in senior care as a profession. It’s unfair to yourself to compare your caregiving style to that of a professional with years of experience and training.
You might also feel like another family caregiver you know is doing a better job than you. This is likely untrue, and besides, every family has different needs. Keep in mind that you’re doing the best you can do for your loved one, and so are other caregivers.
5. Practice Regular Self-Care
As a family caregiver, you probably don’t have much time for yourself. When you are able to step away, make sure you give yourself plenty of self-care.
Self-care, which encompasses various activities meant to promote one’s overall health and well-being, is crucial for avoiding burnout and other mental health problems related to caregiving.
Self-care is just what it sounds like: taking the time to tend to your own physical, emotional, and social health. Any activity that brings you joy and fulfillment can be considered self-care. It can be as simple as taking a hot bath when you’re stressed or calling a friend to vent and decompress.
Add self-care into your daily routine whenever you can to prevent caregiver guilt and burnout.
6. Join a Caregiver Support Group
These days, there are plenty of online forums and group chats for family caregivers around the world. Seeking support from others who are dealing with the same problems can be incredibly encouraging.
When you talk to other caregivers, you don’t have to worry about judgment — they’ve been in your shoes and know exactly what you’re going through. Because they can sympathize with you, you’ll feel less alone in your caregiving journey.
There are also in-person support groups for unpaid family caregivers. Search online to see what’s available near you. Your social health matters just as much as your loved one’s needs.
Face Caregiver Guilt with Strength
By employing these tips, you can overcome caregiver guilt and learn to live with these perfectly normal human emotions. You may never be completely guilt-free, but you can reduce your pain by addressing it head-on.
Don’t be afraid of your feelings. They may seem hard to confront, but they don’t have to control your life.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.