Nearly 30% of the total population of the United States, which translates into approximately 66 million adults, are currently taking care of friends or family members who cannot take care of themselves. Caring for aging and ill loved ones is a task that can be emotionally taxing. It is also a job that goes often overlooked. Those who have never experienced full caregiving do not know how much time and energy is spent on a daily basis. More significant is another bothersome feeling that does not let go of caregivers everywhere: guilt.
Caregiving and Guilt
There are many reasons why there is guilt associated with caregiving. One of the most prevalent is the guilt of “not doing enough”, or “not having enough time” to care for a loved one. Caregivers also feel guilty for their own limitations. Many do not realize that they, too, have basic needs that need to be met, namely, resting, eating, preventing stress, and spending time with other loved ones who also need them.
There is also the element of feeling guilty for fostering resentment. No individual is ever ready to become a caregiver, especially to someone who is in real need of help. Resentment can be a normal reaction to the toll that caregiving can take in terms of time management, financial planning, and one’s own emotional constitution. The important thing to remember is that resentment, guilt, anxiety and stress are typical reactions experienced by many caregivers. While experiencing these emotions is not uncommon, something needs to be done to prevent feelings from becoming burdens in the process.
Steps to Deal “Caregiver’s Guilt”
Do not try to suppress the emotions that naturally arise from stressful situations. Stress is a warning sign that leads us to take action. Consider the following steps to a more mentally-fit “you”, even when facing “caregiver’s guilt”.
Admit your feelings
The emotional toll of caregiving is universally acknowledged. Think about new parents and the myriad of new challenges that they face when they find themselves entirely responsible for the life of a brand new child. As adults giving full attention to another, ailing, adult, we must make sacrifices for which we may be grossly unprepared. However, negative emotions associated to fear and anxiety, are actually easier to manage when we acknowledge and accept them. The next step is, inevitably, to take a plan of action.
Caregiving support groups
With nearly 30% of the total adult population performing caregiving duties, it will not be difficult for you to find a support system, or network, that you can lean on. Speaking out, engaging in different conversations, and finding additional solutions through other caregivers, will make a difference between a difficult and a much less stressful day.
Have someone who is trained in the field of counseling be there for you when the going gets tough. There are private and community-funded counselors who are always ready to listen and encourage those who need it the most. Do not see counseling as a sign of weakness. It is, actually, a healthy way to reload and redirect your thinking processes.
Create fun moments
Even when caregiving is a task, the loved person that you are caring for will always be a part of your life. A typical activity can turn into a fun one if a little bit of creativity is involved. Rather than sitting there to keep someone company, make it into an interactive opportunity to share new things. Play a board game, a video game, or play cards. Play music, put on a comedy show, or enjoy a movie. Time is not about quantity,but quality.
Get outside help!
We all will face the day when we have to make a decision about caring for a loved one who can no longer do it alone. Whether it is a parent, a sibling, a partner, or a friend, our sense of responsibility does not have to be deflated by negative emotions. Sometimes we do much more than we think that we are doing. At other times, we forget about the basic needs that can keep us going.
Getting help, a listening ear, a supportive community, and a plan of action where we are equally important as caregivers, are steps that will make a huge difference in your life. Caregiving is about showing our love and demonstrating our dedication. You can make it as positive, or as negative, as you choose. Opt for the positive, and make this time in your life be as productive and satisfactory as you can possibly make it.