What Is Caregiver’s Guilt?
Caregiver’s guilt is a complex emotion experienced by many who provide care to family, friends, or patients. An intense feeling of remorse, worry, or regret arises due to the perceived lack of ability to do enough for the person in their care. Caregiver’s guilt can be especially apparent when someone is caring for elderly family members or those suffering from chronic illness, as it can be particularly trying and emotionally difficult.
It is common for caregivers to feel like they could have done more to help the person in their care, even though they are already giving so much of their time and energy. Caregivers may also experience guilt if they feel they are neglecting other responsibilities, such as their health, career, relationships with friends and family, etc., to focus on providing care. This type of guilt can be exacerbated when a caregiver compares themselves unfavorably with other caregivers or feels guilty about the inadequacies of their caregiving skills.
The negative emotions that come with a caregiver’s guilt can lead to physical and psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. People experiencing caregiver’s guilt should take time for self-care to avoid burnout, which can make them less capable of providing effective support for the person in their care. Examples of self-care include engaging in activities that bring joy, such as hobbies, exercising regularly, getting enough restful sleep, and taking regular breaks from providing care.
When addressing a caregiver’s guilt, it is important to remember that no caregiver can do it all, and it’s okay to ask for help when needed. Developing a support network with family and friends is beneficial as these individuals can provide emotional support during times of stress and practical assistance such as help running errands or providing respite care when needed. Additionally, speaking with a counselor or therapist may be beneficial if feelings of intense guilt persist despite attempts at self-care and finding meaningful support from loved ones.
Adult Child Caregiving for Senior Parent Stats and Facts
Aging parents often require more attention than their younger counterparts, and it is increasingly common for adult children to step in as caregivers for their aging parents. Caring for an elderly parent can be a difficult task, both physically and emotionally, but one that is often rewarding at the same time. Recent statistics indicate that the number of adult children who are stepping up to the plate to care for an elderly parent is on the rise.
The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that nearly 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid caregiving services to sick or elderly family members and friends each year, with over 34 million of those individuals being adult children providing care to their aging parents. In a National Alliance for Caregiving survey, 33 percent of caregivers reported providing 20 or more hours per week of care. It is important to note that frequently the amount of time devoted to caregiving is nearly equivalent to a full-time job.
Not only do adult children provide physical care and assistance to their elderly parents, but they may also take on financial responsibilities such as bills and expenses. According to AARP Public Policy Institute research, adult children provide 70 percent of informal elder financial support in America, totaling 208 billion dollars in 2017. Regarding who pays for long-term services and support for adults aged 65+, adult children provided 56 percent, followed by Medicaid at 31 percent.
In addition to financial strain, caregivers are also faced with emotional distress. A survey by The International Longevity Centre-UK found that 35 percent of caregivers reported feeling overwhelmed, and 38 percent said they felt stressed when caring for an older family member or friend. Additionally, nearly 20 percent of caregivers reported feeling socially isolated due to providing so much time and energy towards caregiving duties. Caregivers must remember to prioritize self-care when caring for an elderly parent. That includes taking breaks when needed and reaching out for support from family members or local organizations, when necessary, which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with becoming a caregiver.
The trend in adults providing care for their aging parents will likely continue as baby boomers reach older age groups. Currently, about 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States. While it can sometimes be overwhelming, many adult children find joy in helping their parents during this stage of life. In addition, adults caring for senior parents must be recognized as important players in the healthcare system.
How to Overcome Caregiver’s Guilt
Caregiver’s guilt is an all-too-common feeling experienced by those who provide care for a loved one. Whether physical, emotional, or cognitive support, caregivers often feel guilty due to the effort and energy they are pouring into another person. This guilt can manifest in many ways and ultimately cause distress for the caregiver and recipient of care.
Although a caregiver’s guilt is a natural part of providing care, it doesn’t have to take over your life – there are plenty of things you can do to help overcome this challenging emotion. Here are some tips on how to reduce caregiver’s guilt:
- Recognize your feelings
- Set boundaries
- Be realistic
- Connect with other caregivers
- Practice self-compassion and self-care
Recognize Your Feelings
Take some time to acknowledge your guilt and recognize that these feelings are normal and expected, given the situation. Allow yourself to express these emotions without worrying about judgment from others. Reflect on why you might feel guilty–maybe you’re not doing enough or that your efforts aren’t being appreciated – and try to understand why these beliefs exist to move forward healthily.
Caregivers need to know their limits and create boundaries with their loved ones to prevent burnout and exhaustion, which can exacerbate guilt. Figure out what tasks are manageable for you, with regards to time and energy, so that you don’t spread yourself too thin trying to do too much at once. Make sure you set aside time for self-care so that both yourself and the care recipient will benefit!
Remember that no matter how hard you try, there will always be things outside your control when providing care for someone else. Don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go according to plan or something isn’t quite perfect. Rather, focus on what went right during your interactions with them. Celebrate the successes no matter how small they may seem at the time.
Connect With Other Caregivers
You don’t have to go through this alone! Consider connecting with other caregivers who understand exactly what you’re going through and may even have suggestions on how best to manage the caregiver’s guilt. Reach out online or find local support networks where you can openly share your feelings without fear of judgment or criticism from others. Taking the time to talk about experiences helps caregivers make sense of them so we don’t feel overwhelmed by our emotions.
Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Care
The most important thing is practicing self-compassion when dealing with any negative emotions related to providing caregiving services – remember that nobody is perfect, including yourself! Instead of ruminating over mistakes or perceived failures, try reframing these situations more positively by emphasizing what went right rather than wrong. This will help boost morale while also allowing room for improvement in areas where necessary. By following these tips and being mindful of your own mental and physical well-being, caregivers can successfully manage feelings of guilt while still providing quality caregiving services.