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Overcoming Caregiver Guilt


Dealing with caregiver guilt has become an everyday occurrence for many aging baby boomers. They find themselves caring for elderly parents and their own family. As the “sandwich generation” many find themselves dealing with caregiver guilt and dealing with stress.

Care giving is the most guilt producing role we will ever take on in our lives. Many feel guilty about feeling angry, frustrated and unhappy with their role as a care giver. It is hard to be torn between two worlds; trying to meet the needs of aging parents and meeting the needs of your own family. Then there are your own needs,somewhere in all this caring, you loose yourself.

There are two sides to guilt feelings. The good side is that it can make you act and go beyond what is expected to meet the needs of another. The bad side of guilt feelings is it can cloud your judgment or even immobilize you. How we respond to the guilt will affect the actions we take or the decisions we make.

Feeling of  caregiver guilt, anger, sadness and frustration leads to unnecessary stress. The body’s response to these feelings eventually has long term affects on your health. Caregivers often feel guilty about making a promise to a loved one that they no longer want to honor. There is the guilt that you should be with your elderly parents because they are alone, when you are enjoying a family activity. Some care givers are resentful that their aging family member is sick. Caregivers torment themselves with thoughts that they could have done better or should have known something or done something that would have made a difference. Is it any wonder then that we hear the term caregiver stress?

It is important to understand that these are all normal feelings and you are not alone. There are steps that you can take to over come caregiver stress and begin dealing with guilt. Feelings of guilt are our own perceived failures. These feelings negate all the good we do for others.

There are some individuals that tend to feel guilty about things often. It is important to learn to manage your feelings of guilt and overcome the stress it causes.

relaxation guided imagery and visualization techniques for caregivers

The first step to dealing with guilt involves being able to identify all the negative feelings you are experiencing. Put them out on the table. Acknowledge the elephant in the room.

If you are angry with a sibling, or of stolen moments of time or unwanted expectations placed on you by others in the family, identify all those negative feelings. Put them into words and say them to yourself. When you understand and acknowledge these feelings, it gives you an opportunity to look at things differently.

It is also important to acknowledge that you are doing the best you can do in the situation.

Now that you have identified your feelings, take time to explore why you may feel this way. Are you ignoring your own needs? Do you put your care giving duties above all else? Have you become resentful and angry because you are tired and want to have a life of your own?

Many care givers find that they feel guilty if they do something for themselves. Over time this guilt turns into anger and resentment.

To overcome feelings of guilt, it is then necessary to address the choices you make as a caregiver. Do you choose to give up time with family and friends to provide care? Do you take all your weekends and any free time to attend to your care giving duties?

It is important that you take care of yourself because caregivers need to be fit . If you need alone time, take it. If you need to visit with friends and have a good time, allow yourself that pleasure. Meeting your own needs will make you a much better and happier person.

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Learn to be “gentle” with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel good as well as bad. Recognize that your feelings do not have to guide your actions. You can make healthy choices and take the actions necessary to take care of you. In the long run, you will be a better and healthier care giver.

Learn to ask for help. Explore options available so that you can have the time you need for yourself.

Accept the fact that you are human and cannot do it all. Taking care of yourself will allow you to be the care giver you want to be. Guilt will always be a part of the care giving process. Your response to those feelings will affect your health. Take action and take care of yourself to overcome caregiver guilt and dealing with stress.