When you made the decision to become a caregiver for your aging parent, you likely felt prepared for the stress that you were going to feel. You knew that you would be going through difficult and challenging situations that could cause stress, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Knowing this helped you feel ready to detect this issue and manage it in the way that is right for you. What you might not have expected as you went into this relationship was the potential for caregiver guilt.
Caregiver guilt can stem from many things. You may feel as though you are not spending enough time with your aging parent. Your loved one might infer or even tell you that you are not doing enough for them, or that there is more that they need. Your siblings might be telling you that there is more than you should be doing or that they would do things differently or better if they were the ones who were the primary caregiver for your elderly parent.
This guilt can not only be challenging for you emotionally, but it can also put your mental and emotional health at risk and threaten your care efforts and the other elements of your life. Knowing how to manage this guilt is important to helping you protect your emotional health, do what your parent needs, and still protect the other aspects of your life.
Use these tips to help you manage caregiver guilt without sacrificing the other aspects of your life:
- Understand the source of your guilt. When you are dealing with caregiver guilt it is important for you to take the time to really understand why you are feeling that guilt. Just because you are coping with guilt does not mean that you are doing anything wrong, but it also does not mean that you are not. It is essential that you evaluate really why you are feeling this guilt so you can determine if the source is something that you can, and want to, change.
- Determine the motivation. Does your aging parent, sibling, partner, or other source of the guilt realize that they are causing you those feelings? Often your interpretation of things that people are saying or doing is actually far more intense and aggressive than was intended. Determining if the motivation behind what these people are saying and doing is actually to cause you guilt or if it is just an expression of thoughts and emotion can go a far distance in helping you to feel more in control of the situation.
- Give yourself permission to be you. Remind yourself that the care that you give your aging parent is not the only focus of your life. It is extremely important and it is a focus of your life, but it should not be the only thing that you care about at the sacrifice of everything else that matters to you in your life. Give yourself permission to continue to care about the other things in your life, and to take time away from your care efforts to still be you. Remember that as long as your parent has what they need to stay safe, healthy, and comfortable, you are fulfilling your role and should also be happy and healthy.