Guilt is a common feeling amongst caregivers. It seems all caregivers have a particular experience that sticks out in his or her mind, that they replay over and over again in their heads, dwelling on how they could have handled the situation differently. Many also struggle with the constant guilt of not spending enough time with their loved one or spending time away from their own family to care for the loved one. They feel guilty about the resentment they harbor and guilty for the negative thoughts and feelings they have regarding their role as a caregiver. So what is a caregiver to do? All this guilt is unhealthy, and for the most part, useless. I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Remembering these words can promote change in the thought process of the guilty conscience. Instead of replaying that situation in your head, wishing you had handled it differently, accept you can’t change it and instead, learn from it. Next time, you’ll handle it the way you envision. Or consider sharing your experience with others, changing your guilt into feelings of hope and gratification because you have made a positive difference in someone else’s life. Move forward; dwelling only leads to unproductive feelings of regret and self-affliction.
It’s normal to resent your responsibilities as a caregiver. So many caregivers are in the same boat. Put your feelings in perspective by recognizing the true root of your anger. It’s the care giving and the disease that you dislike, not the person you’re caring for. There’s no reason to feel guilty about that. Keep in mind you may have expectations of your loved one that they cannot live up to because of their inability to do the things they once could. The disease will change them. Learn to adapt to these changes instead of getting frustrated with your loved one, preventing the guilty feelings that will most likely follow.
Talking to other caregivers and hearing their experiences and feelings can validate your own trials. It’s never a good idea to isolate yourself and struggle alone. Reach out to others, join a caregiver support group, seek out community resources. Take care of yourself and find ways to meet your own needs. We all have needs and by taking care of your own, you will be better able to take care of others
It may be clouded by a range of other emotions, but ultimately, care giving is a task of love. Focus on all the good you do and love you have for the person you are caring for and your guilt will slip from the forefront of your mind and the rewards of care giving will lighten your heart.