The majority of the time, the caregiver will set high expectations for how they can help the care recipient. In reality, their goals are unrealistic, and as a result, this may lead to disappointment, frustration, and guilt. Making realistic goals is important. A caregiver should develop an action plan for making attainable goals, which should include a checklist with questions to ask. For instance, questions should include assessments like ‘is the goal realistic’ and ‘what is the intended outcome.’
By setting realistic goals, you will be kinder to yourself without the feelings of guilt. You will realize that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings, and you do not factor as much in someone’s life as your guilt would lead you to believe. Guilt makes you think you have more power than you do. You do not.
So how do you stop the guilt cycle? You eliminate one powerful word from your vocabulary: Should. Only you know the circumstances, the time constraints, the resources, and the relationships that impact you as a caregiver. Others may judge; but that’s not your issue. In order to overcome harmful caregiver guilt, lose the shoulds.
Five Ways to Deal with Caregiver Guilt
- Accept and own. Most people are going to feel some guilt for being healthy when someone they love is sick;
- Identify the why. Why are you feeling guilty?
- Stop comparing. Connecting to other caregivers is important;
- Take it easy on yourself. We can be our own worst critic;
- Talk about it with others, especially family and make a plan.
It is often difficult for many caregivers to accept aid from others offering their assistance for many reasons. Some caregivers do not want to be a burden to others. Many caregivers are wary of outside help or have privacy issues. However, it is essential for caregivers to practice learning how to accept help from others. Accepting help does not mean the caregiver is weak or unable to handle their situation, they can delegate tasks and still be in charge. Having an extra pair of hands to help out gives the caregiver a chance to recharge and relax. When the caregiver receives help from others, stress levels will be decreased, and chances of burning out will be greatly reduced. It is important, therefore, for caregivers to take care of their own body and mind.
To help manage caregiver stress and guilt:
- Plan and accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, a friend may offer to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Or a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.
- Focus on what you are able to provide. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
- Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
- Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
- Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
- Seek social support. Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support and help. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it’s just a walk with a friend.
- Set personal health goals. For example, set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. Many caregivers have issues with sleeping. Not getting quality sleep over a long period of time can cause health issues. If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor.
Above all – Take care of yourself
Click here for more information on support groups or call the Community Foundation at 775-333-5499.
By Lawrence J. Weiss