One of the most common comments from caregivers is “I feel so guilty
.” As a caregiver, I feel guilt frequently. I decided to consider why this state of guilt exists in most of us.
Here are some thoughts about our caregiving roles
-Most of us care for someone who took care of us. Our parents and spouses certainly did along the way, so caregivers assume that we must provide the same attention and care for them.
-If we are caring for a child, perhaps our thoughts are about how we may have caused the child to be disabled or to have a chronic disease. What did we do wrong? Was it our genes? Was it something we forgot to do like not watching carefully in a dangerous situation?
-Some guilt is self-imposed and some comes from the responses of others. We impose guilt on ourselves when we feel we’ve omitted something like not taking someone out for a meal. Sometimes we take people’s comments the wrong way and assume they are reminding us of our shortcomings. A statement like, “Mother knows she can always depend on me” can be taken the wrong way by a sibling who is assuming that the comment suggests they are undependable.
Given these common situations, how can we caregivers manage the guilt we feel in whatever form it takes?
I have three suggestions:
, APOLOGIZE if you said something hurtful to your care partner like, “I just answered that question, didn’t you listen?!!!” We all say things we regret, so a simple apology will clear the air, making everyone feel better.
, PLAN for your care partner’s time with others. Find enriching opportunities that utilize the skills of other family members and friends, thus giving you time to create balance and recharge batteries. We simply cannot be there for every need all the time. To impose that lofty goal on ourselves dooms us to a guilt ridden caregiving journey!
, ACCEPT COMMUNICATION objectively rather than personally. Don’t let remarks and all the little communications hitches along the way irritate you. Many snide remarks come from those who are just trying to make themselves feel better. Simply assign those remarks to the “That’s Their Stuff” category. The complaining uncle or the nosey aunt, the lazy sister in another state or the self important friend, take them for who are are. Letting them get under your skin saps energy!
For example, brother Sam says, “Mom seems lonely.” Your caregiving mental set may jump to the assumption that brother Sam thinks you are falling down on Mom’s care. Sam may be trying to lay a guilt trip on you, or he may be just stating what he is observing. Either way, take a deep breath and ask, “How can we relieve her loneliness?” With this open-ended question, you’ve accomplished the following:
1) You place the responsibility on more people, not just on your back.
2) The question puts you and Sam (and perhaps other siblings) into a problem solving mode.
3) The problem solving mode puts you into the position of actually discussing the issue rather than focusing emotion and anger on one another.
I’m a big fan of the open-ended question because you can usually accomplish these three outcomes. Questions that result in placing responsibility on more than one person, that put you and others into problem solving, and that actually begin to solve an issue are the ones that successful caregivers use.
Click here to read Margery Pabst’s article on “Applying the “Just Do It’ Philosophy to Caregiving”
Margery Pabst is the co-author of Enrich Your Caregiving Journey. She is eCareDiary’s caregiving expert and hosts the monthly show, “Caregiver and Physician Conversations”. eCareDiary and Margery are also launching a second show, “Caregivers Speak!!” on Tuesday, May 8 at 2PM. Also, watch for Margery’s Expert Q/A posting on the website. You can access more information on Margery’s work at www.pivotalcrossings.com
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