Understanding Senior Caregiver Guilt

Senior caregiver guilt can certainly feel overwhelming, but there are ways you can cope with it and learn to let go of the emotional pain. Here are some insights from our experienced senior care team in New Jersey.

Why it’s Important to Manage and Treat Senior Caregiver Guilt

Feelings of guilt aren’t just for the guilty – they come from inside us when we feel inadequate, overwhelmed or stressed out, no matter whether these feelings are justified or not. 

These feelings are natural and much more common than you think, and it’s important to know that you are not alone in struggling with this issue. A report from 2015 showed that 22% of children who care for their ageing parents deal with feelings of guilt multiple times a day, with 34% of them believing they are the only ones who can properly take care of their loved one, and nearly half of caregivers consider their situation to be emotionally stressful.

Without proper management and treatment, these feelings of guilt have a significant effect on your own mental and physical health, affecting your ability as a caregiver as well as impacting other roles such as your career and caring for your own family.

While caregiver guilt is completely natural, it shouldn’t be accepted as your new normal.

So, What Should You Do?

The first step is realizing that you are suffering from caregiver guilt and that something needs to be done if you want to keep caring for your loved one and managing your daily life without burning out. The next step is to put strategies in place to make sure you are best able to meet your loved ones needs as well as your own. It’s easier said than done and it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have difficult days ahead, but it does mean that you’ll be in a much better position to cope.

Remember, getting help does not make you weak or inadequate, does not let your loved one down, and is not unjustified. It’s about creating a team that has your loved one’s best interests at heart. Just like raising a child, caring for an elderly parent takes a village.

Respite Care – The Short-Term Strategy

In many ways, respite care is as beneficial for senior caregivers as it is for seniors! Whether you go the informal route by asking a sibling or relative to step in for a set amount of time each week to make sure care is covered while you grocery shop, take care of appointments or just get some time off, or you choose the more formal route of short stays at a local assisted living community, having someone else you can rely on is essential.

The assisted living respite care route is especially important in situations where your loved one needs more specialized care rather than companionship – for example, if they are recovering from illness, have a dementia condition or have recently had surgery. Short term respite care stays in assisted living is not neglecting your parent or being selfish – it’s about putting their care in the best possible hands while you take care of yourself and other responsibilities, so you can rest easy.

Assisted Living – The Long-Term Strategy

It’s easy to let your guilt trap you into thinking that moving your loved one into assisted living is somehow abandoning them. After all, they raised you and cared for you themselves, which makes it easy to think that being their caregiver is the least you can do.

In reality, it’s a little different. The needs of a senior loved one are very different to the needs of a child and are often far beyond the scope of most people’s skills. You are also likely juggling far more responsibilities – your own children, your career, and the needs of your extended family, for example. If you try to do it all, you’re likely going to start dropping the ball and eventually burn out – and that helps no-one.

It’s important to reframe your role as caregiver as someone who wants the best for their elderly parent, rather than someone who is responsible for their every need. Because when those needs become too overwhelming to handle, you ultimately want them cared for in a way that provides for their comfort, health and wellbeing.

Before you dismiss assisted living as an option, we advise you to take a look at what the world of assisted living really offers both you and your loved one. It’s changed a lot in recent years, and is a world apart from what many people think. Take  some time to research what assisted living in South Jersey is all about. Visit our website, call our team and have an online consultation. It’s no obligation, of course, and you’ll quickly see how we can fit into your caregiving team to provide your loved one with the support, care and fulfilling life they deserve, whether it’s temporary respite care or full-time senior care in NJ. Visit us online at https://theshores.umcommunities.org/respite/