Saint Paul, Minnesota
275 East 4th Street, Suite 345, Saint Paul, MN 55101
(651) 796-2540
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Tips for Overcoming Caregiver Guilt

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Tips for Overcoming Caregiver Guilt

Being the primary caregiver for a loved one can be daunting, demanding, and exhausting. Nobody is perfect, but a caregiver often sets extremely high expectations of themselves. When those expectations aren’t met they begin to feel guilty for not providing the level of care they believe necessary. 

This does not feel good, and can eventually lead to burnout, and possibly challenging mental health issues if self-care measures aren't taken. 

Reasons caregivers feel guilty

There are several reasons a caregiver may feel levels of guilt; here are a few of those reasons. 

The person being cared for is in decline. A caregiver should have a good understanding of the illness and short- and long-term prognosis of the person they are caring for. It can weigh heavily on a caregiver when they are expecting and hoping someone will improve when the progression of the illness is a steady decline. 

Family dynamics. It’s not uncommon to look after a family member you didn't have a particularly good relationship with. Feelings of resentment can fester now that you have assumed the role of primary caregiver, and those feelings can also extend to other family members who you may feel forced you into this role. This is a complex scenario. 

You are missing out on family time. When you are providing care for a family member, you may find your tank empty at the end of the day. Not having the quality time or energy to spend with your spouse, children, friends, or hobbies may leave you feeling guilty or upset for committing so much of your energy taking care of someone else's needs. 

Having negative thoughts. If you are taking care of a family member and no one else is offering to help, it is normal to harbor negative feelings. Sometimes people don’t know how to contribute, or don’t feel confident as a caregiver, and you can help by using your insight to assign or ask for support in roles and tasks for others based on where they excel. A few additional people pitching in just a little bit will create vital moments of respite for you.

Common signs of caregiver guilt

Resentment. You may feel underappreciated for all that you do or your calls for help from family may go unheard. 

Anxiety. You may feel anxious that you will do something wrong or that it is your fault somehow if something goes wrong. 

Helplessness. No matter how hard you try, it is never enough, or you feel unequipped to provide the level of care that is needed. 

Irritability. Not feeling appreciated or constantly criticized by the person you care for can make you very irritable. 

Tips for overcoming caregiver guilt

Take time for self-care. In order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. This is more important than ever if you are in a caregiver role. Learning to carve out time to show yourself some love can prevent burnout and help you deal with feelings of guilt. 

Self-care looks different for everyone. You may want to take up a hobby, get a massage, practise yoga, go for a hike, whatever makes you feel good and relaxed will help you to thrive as a caregiver. 

Recognize when you feel guilty. Learning to recognize when you are feeling guilty will help you address those emotions before they get out of hand. Guilt can show up as anxiety, shame, resentment, embarrassment, or any other feeling that leaves you feeling numb and empty inside. 

Taking up journaling or talking to a therapist or friend can help you recognize when you feel guilty and manage those emotions better. 

Join a support group. It may seem like there is no one who understands what you are going through as a caregiver, but plenty of other caregivers experience the same things—finding a group to join, whether in person or on social media, can help you see that you are not alone and learn how others are dealing with caregiver guilt. 

Sometimes just knowing that other people have the same struggles as us is comforting. These groups can also serve as a social outlet. When you spend your days providing care of others, it is nice to talk to people who understand what you do and can offer a little respite from your day-to-day duties. 

Learn forgiveness. Taking care of someone can be frustrating, and unintentionally saying something mean in the heat of the moment or getting angry with the person you're caring for can leave you feeling guilty. 

Learning to forgive yourself for being human is necessary. Providing care for a family member with whom you don't have the greatest relationship due to past issues is hard. Maybe it's a parent who was a less then stellar role model for you as a kid or was just downright mean. It's important to forgive them. Even if it is not received well by them, learning to forgive is powerful for your mental well-being. 

Don't forget all the good things you have done. It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative thoughts in our heads that we tend to overlook or forget the positive things that we are doing. Taking on the role as caregiver for an aging family member is an admirable undertaking and the selflessness of that should not be undermined. You are doing what a lot of people can't or won't do. Don't forget to remind yourself of all the good things you do. 

Are you having guilt about calling an in-home care agency?

If taking care of a loved one gets to the point that you can't manage on your own, physically, mentally, or emotionally there are agency partners that can help. 

You may feel guilty about asking for help, but you are only human and can only do so much. An in-home care agency can help to give you the support and respite you need, even if it's just a couple of hours a day or week to meet friends, run errands, tend to appointments, or simply relish in some personal time. Learning to take care of yourself is crucial in order to take care of others, and reaching out to an agency, like Comfort Keepers, can help you do that.

Tired Woman in Surgical ScrubsBeing the primary caregiver for a loved one can be daunting, demanding, and exhausting. Nobody is perfect, but a caregiver often sets extremely high expectations of themselves.