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Letting Go of Guilt: 5 Tips for Caregivers

Letting go of guilt

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


March 27, 2020

Have you ever experienced caregiver guilt? Do you know what is it? Learn 5 tips to help you manage negative feelings and move toward healthier thoughts.

Approximately 36% of U.S adults are caregivers to an adult in their lives. Some of which are caring for their own elderly family members. Caregiver guilt is a common phenomenon among the spectrum of caregivers, both professional and familial.

So how does one begin letting go of regret and guilt? Or deal with feelings of remorse?

Before we look at how to cope, let’s start by getting a better understanding of what caregiver guilt really is.


What Is Caregiver Guilt?

Guilt stems from an internalized idea that you’re not doing enough. In a nutshell, caregiver guilt is a feeling of inadequacy. You feel like you are not doing as much as you should, and then judge yourself for apparent inadequacies. 

Caregiver guilt can manifest itself in the forms of exhaustion, pushing yourself too hard, negative self-talk, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Unfortunately, these feelings tend to be an inseparable aspect of caregiving.

The people in your care seem so vulnerable and reliant on you for care, that you begin to question whether anything you do is enough. Caregivers feel guilty when they can’t live up to their own or other’s expectations. You may even wonder why you took on the role of caregiving in the first place. 

Stop right there. 

Those negative feelings are not serving you or the people you care for. As caregiver stress gets to you, consider the following tips to help you cope.


5 Tip for Caregivers to Combat Guilt

Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy ways to manage negative feelings. If you find yourself in a rocky place on your caregiving journey, keep reading. Here are five tips to help you find joy in your role once again.


1. Do Not Neglect Your Own Needs

Getting lost in regular care for another person is easy to do. As a result, caregivers tend to neglect their own personal needs. Acknowledge that neglecting your individual needs is counter-productive. Not only will you feel worse off, but it will also impact your ability to perform your tasks as a caregiver.

Find intentional time during your day to check-in with yourself. 

  • Have you explored and addressed any hidden feelings? 
  • Are you growing resentful over time towards your loved one or other family members? 
  • Are you personally getting enough sleep, food, and socialization?

Take a few minutes to meditate or relax if you need to, talk to a friend, take a pet out for a walk and ensure that you’re getting a sufficient amount of rest. Being a caregiver is a noble pursuit, but it should never come at the cost of your own health.


2. Find a Support Person

Know that the guilt or frustration you feel is completely normal. Feelings of overwhelm are common, but they don’t have to be debilitating. As a primary caregiver, you need your own support system.

Whether it’s a trusted friend, a family member, or even a therapist, make sure you have someone to lean on. This person will act as your advocate when feelings of guilt and inadequacy come to the surface. 

Another caregiver is also a great confidant. Consider joining a caregiver support group. You are more likely to feel a sense of solidarity and empathy from someone who knows exactly what you’re experiencing. 


3. Practice Radical Acceptance

While finding a safe space to vent is helpful, consider practicing the art of radical acceptance. You may not always be able to put in as much effort as you would like, but isn’t that just life? Sometimes you feel like a superhero, other times, you are sick in bed. 

The important thing to note here is that whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities.

Certain realities are completely out of your control. Learn to accept the reality of the situation and continue on. You might find this hard to do, but that’s perfectly normal. 

Take it day to day and grow in a practice of acceptance. Work towards shifting your perspective through things like therapy or a heartfelt talk with a trusted adviser.


4. Set Realistic Expectations

In addition to accepting a situation for what it is, you must acknowledge your shortcomings and limits. Often, we hold ourselves to impossible standards. We expect perfection and are overly critical of ourselves when we can’t measure up. 

Negative thoughts may assume you are not spending enough time caring and don’t prioritize well. But pay attention to your expectations given your current reality.

  • Are you fully equipped and have the capacity to be a caregiver?
  • Do you have your own family to care for? 
  • Are you volunteering in other areas of your life?
  • Do you have another job?
  • Can you really do [fill in the blank] for your loved one as often as you thought you could?

Set expectations for yourself and communicate them clearly to those in your care. Maybe they are the ones pressuring you to be the superhero caregiver.

Prepare yourself when you sense a difficult situation or conversation on the horizon. You cannot be all things to all people. Stay grounded in your mind and breathe deep in these moments of stress.


5. Accept Help Through Respite Care

Caregiving is a weighty responsibility for professional and family caregivers alike. No one can fully care 24/7 forever. Taking time to rest, reset, and care for your own wellbeing is crucial.

As a primary caregiver, learn more about respite care. Home care agencies like Commonwise Home Care offer respite care providers for caregivers. 

Accept help for the benefit of yourself and those in your care.


Move Towards Health

As we’ve discussed, while caregiver guilt is almost inevitable, it is also completely manageable. Draw the distinction between the guilt we enforce on ourselves, and the guilt others impose on us. 

Do you feel like you are being treated unfairly? Or that your work as a caregiver is highly unappreciated? Take some time to reflect on your situation to see if you can change your perspective. Are you truly living in that reality or is that just your perception?

If you are a professional caregiver or would like to become one, apply for a job at Commonwise Home Care. We ensure that every caregiver is given the respect, payment, and support they deserve. 

If you are a family member looking into home care or respite care, call us at 434.202.8565. Our Care Team is ready to serve you and your loved one.