Caregiver Guilt: What It Is?

Caregiver Guilt: What It Is?

Caregivers often believe they are not doing enough for their loved one, which results in feelings of guilt. Caregiver guilt can manifest in a variety of ways for several different reasons, depending on the individual and their circumstances. Luckily there are also several coping strategies that can help to manage these feelings and promote good mental health.

One main reason for caregiver guilt is feeling like you don’t have time for anything other than caregiving. This can include feeling guilty for not spending enough time with your children, that your spouse isn’t your priority, for not taking proper care of yourself, not being able to focus at work because of looming caregiving tasks, and the impact that moving your loved one into your home has had on your family.

The other main reason for caregiver guilt is feeling like you are spending too much time on yourself, and not doing enough for your loved one. This can include feeling guilty for putting your own well-being first and/or prioritizing your career when you have a family member to care for, for moving your loved one to a care home instead of having them move in with you, and for potentially having thoughts that your life would be easier if your loved one passed away.

Guilt is an extremely powerful emotion that can take up residence in our heads and begin to cause other negative secondary emotions. Some signs of caregiver guilt can include:

1. Resentment – Feeling underappreciated for all the hard work that you are putting in and the sacrifices you are making.

2. Irritability or frustration – Unresolved issues or tension can have an effect on your mood; feeling a lack of gratitude from your loved one can also cause irritability.

3. Ambivalence – Mixed feelings about caregiving; your loved one means the world to you and you love taking care of them, but it can sometimes come at a personal expense.

4. Helplessness – Loneliness and a lack of support; no matter how much effort you put in, it feels like you could be doing more.

5. Anxiety – Feeling imminent doom or thinking that something bad will happen and you will not be there to help your loved one.

6. Depression and/or sadness – Watching your loved one progress through their illness can take a heavy emotional toll on caregivers as they are repeatedly confronted with grief.

Guilt is a common feeling experienced by caregivers, so you are not alone. Thankfully there are several small steps you can take to cope with your internal experience and address these feelings head on:

· Acknowledge your guilt – The first step is always awareness; until you acknowledge your internal experience, you cannot begin to address it.

· Accept that you are only human – Recognize your strengths and avoid comparing yourself to other caregivers; we are all different so the way we experience and cope with the emotional side of caregiving will vary.

· Talk about it – Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It can be overwhelming to be left alone with your thoughts. Talking it out with a family member, friend or professional can help caregivers acknowledge that thoughts are thoughts and they do not always stem from fact.

· Trust your decisions – you are doing your best to make good decisions for your loved one and for yourself under difficult circumstances. Caregiving is rarely a static process and it should be adapted as time goes on.

· Change your behaviour or your environment – If you can identify certain circumstances that tend to bring on negative emotions, try to shift the behaviour or change your environment.

· Regroup and recharge – Take the time to allow yourself to experience your emotions and to recharge. i.e., exercise, spend time with friends, attend a support group, read a book – do something you love!

At the end of the day, there is no denying that caregivers are everyday heroes. They spend a great portion of their lives caring for someone else and taking on many responsibilities, and still manage to do it all! Caregivers deserve care too so this is your reminder to incorporate self-care into your routine because even heroes need a break sometimes


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