The ‘Guilt’ of Family Caregivers

On the heels of last weeks blog about the “Waves of Family Caregiving” I had someone reach out about the guilt they were experiencing. 

They spoke about the feelings of doing something wrong, and the times they ‘snapped’ being asked the same question…..again. They went on to talk about coming unglued at an administrator at a care facility for talking to their Mom about how she would like her discharge to be handled instead of them. ‘She’s sick, frail and I’m the one caring for her when she goes home. Perhaps you’d like to share that information with…..ME?!?!’ The usually calm, centered person warped into a monster before their very own eyes!

I have had the opportunity to speak with many family caregivers, and the scenarios of guilt and ‘the monster’ are very similar. I’ve found that when you are over-tired, haven’t given yourself enough YOU time; your patience wears thin easily. That’s when you snap; bad decisions are made that you feel even more guilty about…..it’s a downward spiral. 

I also know that finding time for yourself can often be difficult because you feel guilty doing so. Hearing friends and family talk about how ‘you should find time for yourself’ is like gas on a fire. Really? How do you think I might be able to do that? 

Don’t - feel - guilty. Let me tell you how many times I didn’t take that time out, and I snapped. How many times I kept going because I thought I ‘had’ to. I was fortunate to be with my Mom that I loved dearly, but there comes a time when that isn’t enough. Any relationship needs breathing space, and in a caregiving situation it becomes a MUST. 

I found myself enjoying going to the grocery store as my way out, so I would make a stop at a local coffee shop and just sit for a few minutes or go to the park and walk a bit. Did it make it all better? No. Did it help? Yes. 

Here’s the thing….ready? You cannot fully care for your loved one without caring for yourself first. Period. I know you’ve heard it before but please, listen. It’s not unlike being in a relationship. Gosh, you sure do want to spend time with your loved one of course, but you’ve still got to fill up your reservoir with a friend or a hobby that feeds another part of YOU. That allows you to give back more of YOU. Trust me, as a family caregiver, YOU is pretty amazing. 

The Breathing Spaces website allows you to comment on this blog, and Facebook does as well. If you are a family caregiver, I’d appreciate you sharing with everyone how you find time to take care of…YOU.

Be well,

Cyndi