When you’re the primary caregiver for a loved one, you’re devoting much of your time and labor to providing them with the best life possible. On top of managing errands like taking your loved one to doctor’s appointments, picking up medication, and going grocery shopping, you’re also providing companionship and emotionally supporting your loved one.
This selfless act is a monumental responsibility and is not always easy – which can lead to feelings of caregiver guilt.
While it’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel guilty at times when providing for their loved ones, this ongoing negative feeling can impact your health. Practicing coping techniques and tips to help you manage caregiver guilt will help you focus on your mental and physical well-being – and in turn, allow you to provide the best care possible for your loved one.
What Causes Caregiver Guilt?
Caregivers often feel guilt because they always believe they should be doing more for their loved ones – no matter how much they do. Some of these factors may be contributing to your caregiver guilt.
- Caregiving abilities. As a caregiver, you may feel that your abilities aren’t what your loved one deserves. You may feel that all other caregivers are better at caring for their loved ones. You could think other caregivers are always high energy, well-rested and ready to tackle every problem with positive attitudes – making you feel guilty for exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed.
- Visitation. You may spend multiple hours a day every week visiting your loved one, but any time you take a morning for yourself or are in your own space, you feel guilty for not being at your loved one’s side.
- Having negative thoughts. Sometimes, you may experience negative thoughts about your role as caregiver – and then feel guilty for having those thoughts. You may find yourself dwelling on the negative thoughts or the resulting guilt for having them.
- Comparing yourself to other caregivers. You may know other caregivers, follow caregivers on social media, or look up caregiving practices. While you’re seeing people at their best, you may not hear about their negative thoughts or bad experiences, making it seem like they’re always at their best. Comparing yourself to others without fully knowing their story can lead to a no-win situation where you make everyone seem better at caregiving than you.
Dealing With Caregiver Guilt
When you have a helpful toolkit for dealing with caregiver guilt, you can acknowledge how you’re feeling and also move past it.
1. Accept your feelings.
Instead of pushing your feelings of guilt away – you can accept that you’re feeling them. After you identify why you feel guilty, you can take steps to move forward.
2. Remember that you can make mistakes.
As a caregiver, you likely don’t give yourself grace when you make a mistake. Every human has flaws and makes mistakes – and caregivers are no different. Remember all the things you’re good at and that mistakes will happen from time to time.
3. Keep realistic expectations.
Taking care of every single aspect of your loved one’s life without taking time to rest or caring for your own needs isn’t a realistic expectation – and can cause guilt when you can’t meet those standards. Knowing what you can take care of and where you need assistance is key for your mental health and for your loved one to get the best care possible.
4. Reach out for support.
Family members may be able to help you with care for a day, or friends can run an errand for you. You may also want to look into respite care services from senior living communities so your loved one can be in a safe and caring environment while you take care of your needs. A study about caregivers who care for loved ones with dementia shows that caregivers who use respite care help their resilience in providing care for their loved ones.
5. Seek professional help.
Finding a mental health professional can help you deal with guilt and stress, and give you room to discuss your feelings in a nonjudgmental space.
Additionally, you can also seek out caregiver support groups to meet other caregivers and hear their stories. You’ll likely find you have more in common with their struggles and listen to how they deal with their guilt.
6. Take breaks.
It’s important for caregivers to take breaks. Taking time for self-care can provide you with a better life balance, helping you avoid feelings of being trapped and giving you time to recharge. Your self-care could be having a slow morning where you sit outside with your coffee and read a book, or you catch up with friends over lunch. You are allowed to enjoy taking time for yourself.
You may also need a day to catch up with your needs, like going to appointments and running other errands. These days are also important so you don’t feel stressed about these tasks while you’re with your loved one. When you take the time to cross your to-dos off your list, you can be fully present when you’re providing care for your loved one.
7. Focus on your accomplishments.
You can flip your feelings of guilt upside down when you decide to focus on all your caregiving accomplishments. Take time to think about all the great things you’ve done for your loved one. You may even decide to keep a gratitude journal and write these accomplishments and good memories down. If you’re having a hard time, you can flip open your journal to recenter yourself and remind yourself of why you’re the caregiver for your loved one.
How The Village at Gainesville Helps Ease Caregiver Guilt
At The Village at Gainesville, we understand how hard caregivers work to give their loved ones the life they deserve. If you’re wondering about how our senior living community can help you and your loved one, we invite you to see what life is like at The Village at Gainesville for yourself.
Our highly trained associates support residents at The Village to live an active and vibrant lifestyle full of fun social events and ways to get involved in the community. Schedule a tour of The Village at Gainesville today.