The daily stress a caregiver endures can be devastating, especially if you’re considered to be the primary caregiver in the family and have limited time due to your job and/or other family responsibilities. The most common feeling “primary” family caregivers have toward aging loved ones is guilt. Guilt can be destructive, making one feel tired, weak and immobile.
No matter how much you already do, there are most likely times when you tell yourself that you could do better. Accept these feelings of guilt. Without recognition, guilt can be a destructive force. Know where these feelings come from and be aware that you are not alone in having such thoughts. The following tips will guide you on your way to saying goodbye to caregiver guilt.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Negative feelings can make us feel uneasy and agitated, but it’s important to understand that feelings of anger and resentment are not uncommon if you’re a caregiver. Unless these feelings control us, and our behavior toward our family members, we must learn to accept them.
Think quality, not quantity.
If you’re feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your aging loved ones, think of how you can improve the quality of your time together. Spending time reminiscing with your mother or playing a game of checkers with your father, for example, may mean more to them than cleaning their kitchen or delivering a pot roast.
While no one has the time or energy to do everything for everybody, you must find time (and energy) to do the things that are most important to you. By establishing priorities - and allowing some flexibility for the unexpected - you can help ensure that the most important needs are met and the most important tasks get done.
If your loved ones constant demands are running you ragged decide - and clearly acknowledge - what you’re able and willing to do for them. By setting limits and standing behind them, you can help reduce the guilt trips that come when you can’t meet their every demand.
Redefine your concept of caring.
If you find it difficult to provide loving, ‘hands-on’ care for your parent, don’t feel guilty – simply think of other tangible ways you can help in providing for their care. Perhaps you’re more comfortable chipping in to pay for an outside caregiver or planting flowers so your aging loved one can see them from their bedroom. We all ‘give care’ differently - add value where you can make a difference.
Act from love, not from a sense of debt.
If you think of caring for an aging loved one as repayment for all she’s done for you, you’ll always end up in the red. Instead, think of caregiving as one person helping another out of love.
Forgive and seek forgiveness.
If your parent was unkind or uncaring when you were a child, now is the time to forgive – even if you truly feel he or she doesn’t deserve it. Holding grudges will not only affect your ability to care for your parent, but it will also hurt you. Foster their independence. Don’t feel guilty for not doing things for your loved one that they could be doing for themselves. Instead, look for ways to help them do what they can. Something as simple as a $1.29 pill dispenser can help your parent become more independent - and can free up precious time for you.
Face the facts.
Despite how much you want to help, sometimes your aging relative needs round-the-clock care and constant supervision that you can’t provide. When that happens, acknowledge that someone (or some place) may be better equipped to provide the majority of your parent’s care than you are.
Don’t succumb to peer pressure.
Acknowledge, but don’t be unduly influenced by, the advice you get from friends and coworkers. Do what your heart tells you is best and what your circumstances permit.
ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two highly acclaimed books -- The Caregivers Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors. For more information go to www.doctoralexis.com.
Given the many crucial issues surrounding the physical, mental, emotional, and lifestyle demands associated with caregiving, it’s important for families to be aware of where to go for answers, support, and encouragement.
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