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Dealing with guilt: A family caregiver’s dilemma

As a parent or loved one ages, your role may slowly, or suddenly, change. It’s now the season of life where the care you were once provided is reciprocated. Whether your role as caregiver is in an official capacity, or you are simply assisting when needed, managing that on top of everything else can be overwhelming.

From concerns about spending too much or too little time with your parent to where they will get the best care, the end result is often the same: guilt. Here are some common scenarios and tips for alleviating the guilt that often accompanies the caregiver role.

Making decisions that are best for everyone

Oftentimes, decisions about where a loved one should reside can cause a great deal of angst. Perhaps your parent or loved one wants to stay home, but you know that is no longer an option. Or maybe it’s where they go after leaving their own home – a senior living community or moving into your home. Guilt can come from whichever decision you make.

If your loved one is vocal about not wanting to move into assisted living, but you have a house that can barely contain your own children, there may not be a lot of options. Feeling like you are sending your parent away can make you feel enormous guilt. And if they let you know that they aren’t happy about the decision either, it can make things feel even worse.

Focus on why you are doing what you are doing – they need more assistance that you are able to provide. You put a great deal of care into selecting the right place for your parent or loved one.

On the other side of that, perhaps you have decided to have your parent move in to your home. While you know this makes your parent happy, you are uncertain about the affect it will have on your spouse and children. Will they feel neglected because your attention and care if further divided?

Ensure you are involving all affected parties in the decision-making process. This will help take the weight off of your shoulders and make everyone feel that their voice is being heard.

Not enough time

Perhaps your parent often mentions that they wish you spent more time with them. This makes you feel guilty. You think to yourself that you already spend so much time with them that it’s not possible to spend more time. This also makes you feel guilty. You feel guilty about feel guilty, and it just compiles.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t give more of – time – focus on what you can give more of – quality time. Do you spend most of your visit with your phone in your hand or a television show on? Maybe what your parent actually wants is more attention rather than more time.

You could also try to make your visits more memorable – plan activities or experiences rather than doing more of the same.

Needing a break

Sometimes caring for a parent can feel like a burden, but that feeling can lead to more guilt. You feel like your parent shouldn’t feel like a burden, and that makes you feel like a bad child. Know that those feelings are natural, and you have options. Do you have a sibling who could assist more? Have that conversation. Talk to your parent’s friends and other relatives to see if they could schedule more frequent visits.

Much of the overwhelm you feel could be lightened by taking more breaks from the situation. There are many resources available, including respite services, that can help you out on a regular basis.

You should not feel guilty about needing a break. It will help you to remain mentally and physically healthy so that you can continue to provide the support you want to give.

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