Throughout our lives, many of us are asked to care for another person. We become a family caregiver. Perhaps you were called to the task after a loved one’s illness slowly progressed to the point where he or she needed help at home. Your caregiving responsibility may be short-term, long-term or indefinite. Whatever the circumstances, the road ahead on your caregiving journey may seem uncertain and long. Caregivers go through so many emotions in this journey as a caregiver. One of the emotions is guilt.
Each caregiving situation is unique, however the situation may share experiences that encompass physical, emotional and spiritual as well as economic and legal concerns. Rosalynn Carter once said “There are only four kinds of people in this world, those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”
Alzheimer’s of North Carolina (www.alznc.org) provided the following 10 tips to help you say good bye to caregiver guilt. Many times caregivers do experience guilt. I trust these 10 tips will be a help to all caregivers.
1. 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.
2. Face the facts. Despite how much you want to help, sometimes your loved one needs the round-the-clock care and constant supervision that you can’t provide. When that happens, acknowledge that someone (or someplace) may be better equipped to provide the majority of your loved one’s care than you are.
3. Set limits. If your loved one’s constant demands are running you ragged, decide and clearly acknowledge what you are 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.
4. Think quality, not quantity. If you’re feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your loved one, think of how you can improve the quality of your time together. Spending time reminiscing with your loved one or playing a game of checkers with your loved one may mean more to them that cleaning their kitchen or delivering a pot roast.
5. Acknowledge your feelings. It’s important to understand that feelings of anger and resentment are not uncommon if you are a caregiver. Unless these feelings control us and our behavior toward our family members, we must learn to accept them.
6. Establish priorities. 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 task get done.
7. 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 pill dispenser can help your loved one become more independent and can free up precious time for you.
8. Redefine your concept of caring. If you find it difficult to provide loving, “Hands–on” care for your loved one don’t feel guilty, simply think of other tangible ways you can help in providing for their care. Perhaps you are more comfortable chipping in to pay for an outside caregiver or planting flowers so your loved one can see them from their bedroom. We all give care differently and add value where you can make a difference.
9. Act form love, not from a sense of debt. If you think of caring for aging loved ones as repayment for all she or he has done for you, you’ll always end up in the red. Instead, think of caregiving as one person helping another out of love.
10. Forgive and seek forgiveness. If your love one 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 love one, but it will hurt you.
Remember Caregivers, during this holiday season, take care of yourself, take time for respite enjoy your love one and family time. Remember to step away in times of frustration and take those three deep breaths we have talked about. Hope you have a “Best Day Ever.”
Lesia Henderson is a Positive Approach to Care Independent Trainer and Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Specialist.