How Do I Handle Caregiver’s Guilt?

May 19, 2009 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

When it comes to guilt, caregiver’s have a corner on the market. We feel guilty about things we did, things we thought, things we wish we had done…the list goes on. Any of these sound familiar?

  • I raised my voice yesterday, and I think I really hurt my mother’s feelings.
  • Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if I were to place my wife who has Alzheimer’s in a care home.
  • My dad was shouting for no reason, and I got so aggravated that I squeezed his arm really tight to get him to be quiet–tighter than I should have. Now I feel awful.
  • I hate to admit it, but I didn’t call my mother back–and she had fallen and was lying on the floor for over an hour!
  • I lied and told my husband his prescription was out–just so I could have an excuse to run to the store and have a few minutes to myself.

Caring for my mother who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s meant that I had to give up the notion that I’d never raise my voice, or that I would never forget a medication time, or that I wouldn’t snap back with a sarcastic response.

While I was caregiving my mom, my husband was called to jury duty–a pain and suffering case. After several hours of deliberation in which no one seemed to be budging, my husband suggested a compromise.

“Look,” he said, “all of us agree this person deserves some monetary compensation. Why don’t we all write a number down, then we gather them and throw out the high, throw out the low, and average the rest.” They went home within an hour.

That got me to thinking…so I throw out the low part of my day–the moment I gritted my teeth and yanked the sheet too hard, and I throw out the high–when I make her banana pancakes for breakfast, and I averaged the rest. Overall, we had  pretty good days if you averaged them out.  

I call that “good enough” caregiving. 

Good enough caregiving means that you remember why you started caring for your loved one in the first place. They need you. They don’t need just anyone–they need you–the person who loves them, the person who is dedicated to making sure they’re cared for properly. These are reasons you can believe in.

Good enough caregiving means that you self-correct when you get “off.” So you got snippy. Make a mental note on how to handle it better the next time.

Good enough caregiving means that you say you’re sorry, and you don’t beat yourself up all night. It also means that you forgive easily. Even when your care buddy, or care professional doesn’t ask for forgiveness, you just know they didn’t mean it that way.

Good enough caregiving means you can step back and look at the big picture and accept the imperfectness in yourself, in others. You’re okay with all that life has handed you–even the less-than-great-parts.

Perfect caregiving? No such animal. Every situation offers a chance to learn and grow. Sometimes we’re tired and we don’t say or do what we know we should. Sometimes we do. And that’s good enough.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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