What Is Caregiver Guilt and How Can You Cope?

If you are caring for a spouse or aging parent, you may experience a range of emotions along the caregiving journey – ranging from positive to negative. Often, caregivers want to push the negative feelings aside or keep them from bubbling up.

The truth is, according to Donna Schempp, LCSW in an article titled The Emotional Side of Caregiving, if we don’t deal with all our emotions, even the negative feelings, they can begin to nag at you, worsening your health and increasing your stress.

Undeserved caregiver guilt is one of the main sources of negative feelings for caregivers, but they may not understand exactly why they are feeling this way. To help prevent or better cope, caregivers should understand the causes.

What Is Caregiver Guilt?

Those caring for a senior loved one may face feelings of guilt that can be caused from common emotions that many caregivers experience throughout their journey, including:

  • Feeling as though you are not as good of a caregiver as you should be
  • Wondering if you are making the right choices and decisions for your loved one
  • Experiencing feelings of resentment for the time you are spending caring for a loved one and what you may be missing out on
  • Feeling trapped in your role
  • Comparing yourself to other family caregivers or to your own unrealistic expectations
  • Wanting to spend more time to yourself or more time on other members of your family
  • Feeling like you can’t or shouldn’t need to ask for help
  • Knowing a move is inevitable for your loved one, especially if they’ve been adamant about remaining at home or having family care for them

Dealing With Caregiver Guilt

It’s important to understand that oftentimes negative feelings of guilt are caused by common misconceptions about what caregiving should look like. As a result of these beliefs, many caregivers are too hard on themselves and push themselves to take on unrealistic responsibilities. The guilt that comes from not meeting expectations they imposed on themselves can increase feelings of stress and negatively impact health.

If you’re a caregiver who has dealt with these or similar emotions, you are certainly not alone. Find our tips below to discover ways you can tackle caregiver guilt head on.

Identify Your Emotions

It’s normal for caregivers to feel upset, guilty, mad or any other emotion. Putting a name to these emotions can not only help you think about them rationally, but it can allow them to pass sooner.

Instead of avoiding how you’re feeling now, focusing on how you should feel, or anticipating how you could feel in the future, take your emotions day-by-day and moment-by-moment.

Set More Realistic Expectations

Whether you hold yourself to high expectations or tend to compare yourself to other caregivers, it’s important to realize that you should give yourself grace. Everyone has flaws, their own reality, and a number of outside factors contributing to their caregiving journey. For example:

  • Your friend who also served as a caregiver may have had no children to care for
  • A professional caregiver has team members available to help
  • The person you think looks so put-together might only be that way because their loved one is currently being cared for in respite care

You don’t always see the full picture at a glance, so try to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Consider your own emotions and realize you are very likely doing the best you can under your own set of circumstances.

Ask for Help

Remember that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help or support. If you’re not sure where to start, consider asking a friend or family member to:

  • Take your loved one to minor appointments
  • Spend some time with them while you go pick up their prescriptions
  • Pick up groceries or do a curbside pickup for items you ordered
  • Help cook dinner or clean
  • Participate in an activity with both of you

No matter what you ask for, be sure to be specific, as this can help others know exactly what you need.

Take Time for Yourself

Of course, you should also take care of yourself while caregiving.

  • Take the time to visit with your other family and friends
  • Practice self care by exercise, meditating or doing something you love
  • Attend a caregiver support group and learn from senior living team members
  • Go outside and enjoy the beauty of nature

No matter what you do, taking time to care for you can help you be a better, happier caregiver.

Consider If Assisted Living Could Help

There may come a time that you begin to consider or encourage your spouse or parent to try assisted living. This can be a difficult conversation to have with your loved one, but a senior living community might be a great way to ensure they’re living the lifestyle they want, while you enjoy peace of mind.

Leading assisted living communities like Waterstone of Lexington offer:

  • A range of amenities, services and programming
  • Dedicated care from a team of caring professionals
  • Spacious apartments suited to residents’ needs
  • Delicious and nutritious meals prepared for them
  • A carefree lifestyle with freedom from housekeeping and home maintenance

Ready to Learn More?

If caregiving for a loved one is becoming beyond your capacity, we can help. Reach out to our experienced Senior Advisor today to learn more about the benefits of premier assisted living at Waterstone of Lexington.