Identifying and Managing Caregiver Guilt

May 9th, 2019 | For Family Members

Caregivers are special people. They assist in the everyday tasks for loved ones such as running errands, helping with paperwork, managing medicine and mail often without any reward or gratitude. These responsible, dutiful, and admirable caregivers are the backbone of an aging generation’s personal support.

This burden can seem overwhelming while trying to manage other important obligations and responsibilities. They may not even know or understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes they need an objective opinion to help them identify caregiver guilt.

What causes caregiver guilt and caregiver resentment?

Due to the various needs of aging parents and loved ones, many caregivers feel guilt or anger. One of the most common sources of caregiver guilt is the unhappiness of feeling trapped and obligated with the task of caring for aging parents.

Other sources of caregiver guilt can include:

  • Fear of not doing enough for their aging loved ones’ memory needs
  • Personal time lost with senior loved ones
  • Unresolved family issues, childhood issues, or arguments in the past
  • Feelings of guilt while transitioning an aging parent to a senior living community
  • Personal health or family issues that prevent caring for aging parents


Tools for managing caregiver guilt

Painful feelings associated with guilt – like sadness, anger, and resentment – hurt like any other types of pain. If you identify that you may be dealing with caregiver guilt, there are many tools and resources to help guide your actions to optimize your health and the health of those around you.

Here are eight tips to help manage caregiver guilt.

  1. Acknowledge the guilt and accept that it’s normal to feel guilty sometimes
  2. Accept your humanity and that sometimes humans have flaws
  3. Reach out for support from family and friends
  4. Find caregiver support groups in your area
  5. Know you’re making the best decisions you can for you and your loved ones 
  6. Deal with changes in situation – like declining health, an injury, accident or inability to take care of themselves – that can force people to make decisions and changes
  7. Trust you are making the best decision under changing circumstances
  8. Make time for yourself – even an hour or two a week can help put the situation in better perspective and help you de-stress


How to manage frustrations

There are a number of ways to help manage the anger, resentment and the stress associated with being a caregiver.

  1. Find other motivations for helping aging loved ones
    Caregivers should visit and provide care because they want to or because it’s important to them – not because they feel like they have to. This helps to avoid resentment.
  2. Recognize that negative feelings are normal
    Dreading aspects of providing care doesn’t make you a bad person – caregiving is difficult and time-consuming work.
  3. Accept that feeling guilty for losing patience is normal
    Especially when parents have memory needs. Take more breaks and refocus some energy into self-care and getting rest so you can return refreshed.
  4. Maintain balance in life
    Understand you can’t devote all of your time and energy to caring for loved ones without getting drained. You can’t be the best caregiver if you are not rested, relaxed, and healthy.
  5. Understand what you’re feeling and how you cope
    Fear, anger, grief, frustration, boredom, exhaustion, resentment, loneliness, crankiness, and depression are normal. If you aren’t actively dealing with your feelings, your body will find other ways to cope, like stress eating, substance abuse, or depressed feelings.
  6. Focus on the present and future, not on the past
    People change and have increasing needs as they age. Use the time you have to search for the right senior living community to fit everyone’s needs, schedule tours of different communities, and ask a lot of questions.


Exploring the options of senior living

There isn’t one set caregiver description that applies to everyone caring for loved ones. Each caregiver feels different emotions and levels of stress; but dealing with these issues will allow you to be more balanced and focus on other challenges affecting your days.

You want to be confident that you and your loved ones are happy with the decisions made. Often, simply exploring the options and talking about addressing problems can help. Senior living can help eliminate the stress of being the caregiver, allowing you to enjoy the time you  spend with your loved ones.