Wednesday Workshop – Steps Toward Relieving Caregiver Guilt

Wednesday Workshop – Steps Toward Relieving Caregiver Guilt

Wednesday Workshop – Steps Toward Relieving Caregiver Guilt

Hello and welcome to our Wednesday Workshop. Today, we will discuss a complicated issue: guilt. Specifically, we will be talking about the guilt that comes with being a caregiver. At the end of our blog, we hope you come away with some tips on how to relieve caregiver guilt.

First, let’s ask ourselves: What is guilt and why do we experience it?

Guilt is hard to define because it can come from so many different places within us and for so many different reasons. It is usually understood as a feeling of responsibility for doing wrong. The complexity of guilt lies in the fact that we can also feel guilty for our intentions. That means we don’t have to do anything to feel guilty. Many people have tried to describe why we feel guilty. Freud, for instance, ties guilt to our fear of disappointing an external authority—like a parent—which we ultimately turn into an internal authority within us, making something like our “conscience.”[1] Interestingly, Freud connects the sense of guilt we feel to an anxiety of losing love from others around us, like our family or society as a whole. Whether or not we believe Freud, there is something compelling about what he says: our sense of right and wrong is tied to how other people might perceive us.

In the caregiving context, you may feel a sense of guilt even under those situations when you should not feel it. For instance, you might think that you are not doing enough to help your loved one. You may also feel guilty for admitting that you are tired or need a break. These are very common feelings, and you should not feel guilty for them. The truth is, caregiving is exhausting work, and you are doing all that you can do.

Whether your guilt stems from your need to take a break, a desire to find relief, or your fear of not doing enough, we encourage you to try the following steps to relieve this guilt.

All these steps require is some introspection, self-honesty, and self-compassion.

1) Understand that you have limited control: Try not to feel guilty for situations over which you do not have control. You cannot blame yourself or anyone else for events that have happened to you or a loved one. What you do control is how you respond to the situation at hand.

2) Recognize where your guilt is coming from: Try to isolate the source of your guilt. Ask yourself, “About what exactly am I feeling guilty?” Once you determine this, write it down. And remember: Guilt is a complex emotion. Some people may feel guilty for not feeling guilty.[2] For example, if you decide to take a break from caregiving and you do not feel guilty for doing so, you may begin to feel guilty for this lack of guilt. These are very complicated feelings, so be open and honest with yourself about them.

3) Ask yourself if your feelings are reasonable: In caregiving contexts, a lot of perceived guilt may be unreasonable. That is to say, your feelings are usually very warranted. For instance, things like taking a break should not make you feel ashamed. Breaks are very rejuvenating and may help you be a better caregiver when you start again.  A good way to ask yourself this question is to imagine if you were someone else looking at your situation. Would you fault this person for anything? A lot of times, your feelings under certain circumstances are completely understandable to other people.

4) Remind yourself that you are doing everything you can: As a devoted caregiver, you are most likely doing all that you can do within your power. Recognize that you’ve been doing an amazing job caring for your loved one even if there are obstacles along the way. You should not feel guilty for working hard and being a compassionate person. Just like any task that requires a lot of energy, it is okay to experience fatigue, anger, or even doubt. These are all normal responses to stressful circumstances and you should try to accept them rather than feel guilty for them.

Thank you for watching our Wednesday Workshop. We hope you join us next week for our segment on caregiver stress and its effects on the brain! To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center, feel free to call us at (877) 760-9199 or email us below. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop! We’ll see you next week!

[1] See chapters VII and VIII in Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents

[2] Source:

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