Causes of caregiver guilt and tips for emotional management
Amelia has had her father live with her for a couple of months now. Her elderly father had a stroke and she wanted to help him in any way she could. She was not expecting the recovery to take as long as it has and she started to blame herself. Her feelings of guilt, irritability, and sadness were getting worse and she knew she needed to address it. This scenario may sound familiar to you as a caregiver. Caregiver guilt can occur frequently due to unrealistic self-expectations that cannot usually be met. If you are feeling caregiver guilt, it’s necessary for you to recognize when you feel it as it can impact your own health and care you provide to your loved one. The painful emotions that come from caregiver guilt can be fixed by determining how to accurately reassess your abilities and creating a healthy balance in your life.
Are you feeling other emotions besides guilt? According to Choosing Therapy, the feeling of guilt can result in “reactive cycles” that cause other emotions and symptoms to appear and become cyclical. The following are common signs and symptoms that come with caregiver guilt:
- Depression and sadness– you can constantly encounter feelings of loss & grief as a caregiver when your loved one is going through changes and getting worse which you can’t stop or make go away
- Anxiety– Fear you are doing something wrong or won’t be there when something bad occurs
- Resentment– feeling unappreciated for the care you’re giving or wanting more help and not getting it
- Helplessness– you feel regardless of what you do, it is never enough
- Ambivalence– the feeling of wanting to do what you’re doing but also not wanting to
- Irritability– You may get easily irritated if you do not feel gratitude for what you are doing or receiving constant criticism
Caregivers tend to frequently try to juggle all their responsibilities at a time. This can cause guilt to emerge because you feel you are falling short in any or all relationships and roles in your life. A research study found that this scenario creates five major factors to result in caregiver guilt.
- Guilt about doing wrong by the care recipient– emotions may rise if you feel you are doing the right thing for your loved one or that it is your fault they are not getting better.
- Guilt about not rising to the occasion as caregivers– You may feel that you are not spending enough time taking care of your loved one or that you should be doing more.
- Guilt about self-care– You could be feeling that you don’t deserve to take care of yourself because there is someone else you need to help care for. However, caring for yourself is just as necessary.
- Guilt about neglecting other relatives– In addition to being a caregiver, you may be a spouse or partner, an employee, a parent, a student, and a friend. So when taking care of a loved one, this can cause you to feel guilt that you are not paying enough attention to your other family members and responsibilities.
- Guilt about having negative feelings towards other people– You may feel resentment or be irritated at your loved one or other people if they criticize you or don’t understand what you’re going through. However, since caregiver guilt causes you to blame yourself, these emotions make you feel guilt.
Ways to cope
Caregivers tend to not take care of themselves because they have the belief that their focus needs to be on their responsibilities of taking care of others. However, self-care and reassessing yourself is the best way to address the guilt you are feeling. The reality is to be a good caregiver you need to take care of yourself. This includes recognizing and acknowledging the negative feelings you have related to being a caregiver.
The following tips can help you take more control and address your caregiver guilt:
- Recognize and identify when the feeling of guilt occurs– Not allowing yourself to acknowledge the negative feelings you are having can make it even more debilitating. Not judging yourself and giving yourself permission to feel guilt will help you move forward.
- Be compassionate to yourself– Be your support system and treat yourself how you would to another family member or friend going through a similar crisis.
- Connect with others and ask for help– Confiding in someone whether it be a therapist, friend, or family member can help you express how you’re feeling while getting the additional support you need.
- Make time for yourself– Take some time away from your responsibilities so you can reflect on the emotions you’re feeling and care for yourself.
- Re-evaluate self-expectations– Realistically evaluate your expectations and ask yourself if you would expect someone else to respond in the same way you expect yourself to.
When Amelia realized she felt caregiver guilt she reached out to her other family members for additional support. She no longer feels overburdened with responsibilities and now recognizes that she is doing enough to be a good caregiver. If you are also feeling caregiver guilt, do the same thing for yourself. Take some time to recognize the emotions you are feeling and seek the support you need.
1 +1 is a referral agency that works for clients and caregivers. We match caregivers with clients and inform them of your requirements. We work for you so you and your loved one can have a safe, enjoyable caregiving experience.