According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, caregiver is defined as “a person who provides direct care.” But anyone who has ever taken on the responsibilities of a caregiver can affirm this role means so much more than that.
Caregiving is a selfless act that requires compassion, understanding, and courage to stand by a loved one every step as they go through difficult times. Everyone has different experiences when it comes to providing the right care for a close relative, and the generous and unselfish nature of caregiving can add a wide range of feelings.
Stages of Caregiver Guilt
Caregiver Guilt is one of the most common struggles people experience when they’re responsible for the health of a family member. In fact, a 2010 study identified five specific levels of caregiver guilt based on interviews with over 250 dementia caregivers. The stages are:
1. Guilt Regarding Inadequate Care
Many caregivers are constantly analyzing their responsibilities or replaying certain instances in their minds, wondering if they could/should have done something differently. For example, a caregiver might feel as though they could have been more compassionate in a situation, or perhaps the person they’re caring for had an injury, and they continuously wonder if they could have done something differently to prevent it.
2. Guilt of Not Rising to the Occasion as a Caregiver
A caregiver might feel as though they have a lot to improve on. If a caregiver is balancing their own career, family, and personal time, it can be hard to identify a level of priority. At this stage, caregivers wonder if they are properly prioritizing their loved ones.
3. Guilt for Lack of Self-Care or Personal Time
When a person spends a large portion of their daily life ensuring a relative is safe, healthy, and happy, self-care can pale in comparison to the quality of life that the caregiver wants their loved one to receive. This can lead to feelings of guilt regarding stress management, neglecting time spent with friends or family, and even the decline of one’s own personal health.
4. Guilt of Neglecting Other Relatives
When a person falls into the caregiver role, it can be easy to feel a bit overextended. This can lead to a lack of time spent with spouses, partners, children, and other family members. In addition, if other relatives are having a crisis, the caregiver may be unable to help, provide advice, or be there for that person, leading to feelings of guilt.
5. Guilt of Having Negative Feelings Towards Others
Negative feelings are prevalent when performing caregiving duties; unfortunately, many of these feelings can be directed at the person who requires assistance and care, as well as other family members. For example, one might feel resentment towards relatives who didn’t step up to the role or don’t provide any extra help and feel as though they were left to take care of everything with no help.
Overcoming Feelings of Caregiver Guilt
If any of these types of guilt regarding caregiving responsibilities sound familiar to you, rest assured that these feelings are completely natural. In fact, many caregivers feel they should be able to easily “deal” with feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, and stress, but caregivers must prioritize their mental health.
Here are a few helpful strategies to allow you time to understand these feelings and eventually overcome them.
Recognize Your Emotions
By journaling, talking to a professional or even a close friend, you can allow yourself to vent out these feelings of guilt and eventually begin to recognize how they play into your current situation.
Make Time for Yourself
Dr. Marlynn Wei, a contributing editor for Harvard Health, says that self-care is vital for caregivers who have a lot on their plate. In fact, Wei says that self-care is the body’s natural way of coping with stress and negative feelings! “The counter-stress system is called the ‘relaxation response,’ regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system. You can purposefully activate the relaxation response through mind-body practices like yoga, tai chi, meditation, and deep relaxation techniques.”
Forgiveness and Understanding
Caregiving comes with an emotional side, especially when dealing with relatives who don’t help provide assistance or with feelings of self-doubt regarding the level and quality of care that you’ve been providing.
Forgiveness for yourself and others is an integral part of overcoming negative emotions and feelings of guilt, according to Laurel Ivers, a Chaplain for Hospice of the Red River Valley. Ivers says that forgiveness can positively impact family and community relationships during these situations and “can bring healing to the person who is doing the forgiving and to the person who is being forgiven.”
Find a Support System
It should go without saying that people should seek out a group or close friends to provide comfort and support during challenging times. But for many caregivers, this can seem like a challenge, especially when dealing with a hectic schedule of responsibilities. However, finding a support group can provide a much-needed social outlet for caregivers and provide resources and people that share similar problems.
If you need extra help providing care to a loved one, it might be time to consider assisted living. Brickmont Assisted Living in Georgia provides full-time residential assisted living care and services, as well as short-term respite care and Adult Day Care, so your loved one gets the support and care they require, and you can have a much-needed break.
Discover assisted living in Georgia with passionate care, genuine service, and authentic hospitality today by visiting Brickmont Assisted Living’s website!