I feel so guilty
What you do is hard enough without also weighing yourself down with guilt. Logically, you know this is true. Yet the vast majority of family caregivers admit to feeling guilty some or all of the time, no matter what they do or how hard they try
Here’s some of the most likely causes of caregiver guilt. Read on – you may find that quite a few of them sound familiar…
Could this be YOU? 5 reasons family carers feel guilty:
* I was horrible to the person I love before I knew they had dementia
The early symptoms of dementia often progress slowly, over many years. During this time, the person you care about may become increasing forgetful or stubborn, causing you and other family members to become impatient and frustrated. However, once they’ve been diagnosed with dementia, everything starts to make sense…and that’s when the guilt creeps in. You look back and remember how bad tempered you became when they phoned in the middle of the night or locked themselves out for the umpteenth time.
* Other carers are so much better than me
If you get the chance to meet other carers (whether face to face or online) they all seem to have the same troubling traits in common; you’re convinced they’re more loving, capable, knowledgeable and dedicated than you are. They’ve made bigger sacrifices and are generally more educated and equipped to deal with whatever the dementia journey may present them with. They’re just plain nicer than you in every respect… and that’s what you keep telling yourself. Often.
* I still get angry and bad tempered
You know that the person you love can’t help the way they might behave or the things they say. You know you shouldn’t take it personally because ‘it’s the illness talking, not them.’ But sometimes you can’t ignore a hurtful comment, especially if they’ve just kept you awake all night or phone you endlessly when you’re at work. In fact, there are times when you don’t even like them very much anymore…
* I shouldn’t have put my loved one in a care home
Brace yourself because this is a biggie. If you’ve decided that a care home is the only sensible way forward, you may experience overwhelming feelings of guilt, especially if your loved one doesn’t seem happy about it and/or then decides they hate the care home. Why didn’t you just try a little harder to keep them at home? Why have you failed them, deserted them in their hour of need? Many carers describe this as the most crippling guilt of all.
* I’m not a real caregiver because I don’t do enough
You don’t spend 24 hours a day looking after your loved one and don’t therefore consider yourself to be a ‘proper’ caregiver, even if you do shop, cook, phone constantly, take care of their medication and visit whenever you can… Many family members feel enormously guilty that they don’t do absolutely everything for the person they love. If professional carers are also involved, this only exacerbates their guilt until they doubt the value of anything they do.
4 ways to help yourself:
Challenge it: How realistic are your expectations? Many carers place far too high demands on themselves.
Accept it: You are likely to feel guilty no matter what you do, but that doesn’t mean you have to dwell on it or worry about it. Remind yourself that guilt is a normal part of being a caregiver – it’s almost part of the job description!
Forgive yourself: What would you say to a friend who was in a similar position? Would you say ‘yes, you are right to feel guilty, you really aren’t doing enough, other people do much more than you.’ Or would you say, ‘Actually, I think you’re doing the best you can, and you should stop being so hard on yourself. ‘
Ban the word ‘should’: If there’s one thing caregivers are guilty of, it’s overusing the word ‘should’. Here’s a few examples of the things you might be telling yourself.
* I should be doing better
* I should be doing more
* I should not be burdening other people
* I should not be complaining
* I should not miss my old life
* I should look forward to seeing the person I care about…but I often don’t
Most caregivers are, by definition, caring, kind people who are sensitive to the needs of others and often overly critical of themselves. Maybe guilt is already a familiar emotion in other areas of your life? If your relationship with the person you care for hasn’t always been easy, you might also feel guilty about past events. If guilt is really running (and ruining) your life, it might be worth talking to a professional about where it comes from and whether you can gain a clearer perspective.