Caregiver Guilt

Over 20 years of clinical practice has taught me that caregivers experience a full range of emotions in their new role. We really do not have a manual or guide on how “how to be a great caregiver” growing up so the role of caregiver is often learned as we go. This can be difficult and challenging for many of us.

One of the primary emotions experienced by most caregivers is a sense of guilt. Guilt probably stems from the feeling that “I should be doing more and I should be able to take care of mom or dad in my home.” The emotion is typically confronted by the reality that a caregiver may also have a full time job, several kids, a family, and no room at home to provide such care.

Simultaneously, and particularly in the case of parents, the caregiver realizes that the parent cared for him or her and deserves the same in return. These really represent the core issues and thoughts the breed guilt. The feeling of guilt is universal and quite normal. It reflects love and compassion for a family member. It can also cause the caregiver many sleepless nights, depression, anger, etc.

In my practice, I try to provide the caregiver a chance to talk about what he or she is experiencing. I always let the caregiver know how normal guilt is and that the most important decision for care of an older person is safety. So often, a parent may be in need of 24-7 supervision, increased structure, socialization opportunities, and clinical attention. Most children cannot meet these needs, particularly on a 24-7 basis.

Time is helpful to the caregiver guilt, as children will see that most settings provide excellent and compassionate care within a safe environment. It is important for the caregiver to find time for him or herself and to not let guilt drive their decisions such as how often to visit. I will make recommendations to caregivers to not visit so often when I believe the behavior is causing more problems.

A decision to place a loved one such as a parent into assisted living or long-term care is very difficult. All caregivers can know that guilt is a primary and normal emotion with such decisions. Safety needs to be the most important factor in the decision-making process and time will help to heal the feelings of guilt. Caregivers need to create their own time for respite and to monitor their emotional health throughout.

7 thoughts on “Caregiver Guilt”

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  5. I have had care giver guilt. Y grandmother took care of children during the Great Depression (217 children’s aide children) passed through her doors. When she became ill, she passed in 1989 my father and I took care of her in her home. After my mom passed in 1992, I should have seen my mothers failing health; I had just completed a course on recognizing illnesses and their prevention. My father called that morning and I lost it. I took care of my father only the last 2 years of his life until 2007. He passed after a surgery on his hand! He had asked to come home and I left him in a musing facility due to the medical insurance warned that if I did not they would default and make us pay the entire bill. Two days alter he was gone. My brother secretly held the extent of his cancer condition until he was at the end of stage 3. Stage 4 is terminal. He reached that December 10, 2011. By February 11, 2012 he had passed. I had brought him closer from his home to nearer me. I wanted to supervise his care. I went home for a short break after sitting with him for several hours to eat. I decided to take a nap when the home called. I was two blocks from the home. I did not have the time to arrive before he was gone. Believe me when I say that you can never be ready for the passing of a loved one. I urge everyone to be prepared and have all of the documents signed while the person is healthy enough to do so. The aftermath is horrible. The family home can be ripped from under you. Healthcare can force you to sell it to satisfy a potion of the bills that are owed. This happened to my brothers estate. We tried to shield it by having both of on the documents. It did not matter. I was forced to sell everything i could to pay what I could. I had to return his car and basically sign away the land to the court. His children who were estranged were more interested in what they got than how he fared or lived when he was still alive. So I am conflicted and saddened. I hesitate to tell anyone to take up such a duty. It can be tiresome and many will argue with any decision you make. I am the last of my line. My family name will die with me. My daughter will follow Western tradition and change her name when she marries in a couple of… (years?) So I survive only with my spouse and her family near me. A great name is passing into the darkness and I can not do anything about it. I am too old to sire another child as I am now disabled. So, yes I have survivors guilt. I have survived my whole family; I am the last.

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