Caregiver guilt is unofficially defined as the feelings you experience between what you are able to do for your senior loved one as a caregiver and the unreasonable expectations you have placed upon yourself in that caregiver role.

Those expectations result from your love for your parent, promises you made to Mom or Dad when you first became a caregiver (that you now are unable to keep), or the belief that your self-worth is defined by never admitting you have reached your limit.

Let’s look at the effects of guilt and how to move through it.

The Price of Guilt

Guilt is physically, mentally, and emotionally corrosive. It saps your energy, wastes your time, and clouds your judgment. It can pull at you between the responsibilities you feel and the people you love. For example, would you feel you are neglecting your spouse who wants to take a trip with you if you choose to stay to take care of Mom?

Unfortunately, life is not guilt-free. The good news is there are ways to help alleviate these feelings.

Gaining a Perspective on Caregiver Guilt

One part of you knows that, according to the data, long-term care for Mom and Dad is practically inevitable. The exhaustion, frustration, sleepless nights, increased bouts of illness, marital discord, growing resentment, and three glasses of wine a day you’re now drinking have grown to be too much!

Yet, guilt still holds you in its grip when you think about placing Mom in a senior living community. Consider the following:

  1. Senior living communities have staff with skills that Mom needs—skills for which you have no training. Senior living communities have many staff members, and there is only one of you. Senior living communities employ medical professionals who have the training and experience to care for your senior loved one that you do not.
  2. Senior living communities provide socialization and resources that you can’t hope to match, including the opportunity to meet new people and take part in plenty of activities. You might get along well with your Mom, but she would probably thrive with a larger social circle, don’t you think?

Perform a self-assessment. Caregiving takes its toll. Is it reasonable to believe that you can continue to be the primary caregiver as your Mom or Dad require more and more specialized care? And if she or he does need specialized care, are you able to provide the level of care they need?

The Guilt Factor

Do not be paralyzed by the guilt you may be feeling. Acknowledge it and do some things that will help both you and your parent work through the situation.

Stop your internal self-criticism dialogue and research senior living communities in the area to find the best one for your loved one.

When you find a suitable community, make the move-in a positive experience for everyone involved. Help Mom or Dad decorate the new residence. Bring in some photographs, mementos, or furniture from the old home. Turn it into a move-in “party” rather than a move-out “dirge.”

Also, do not hesitate to talk to someone about your feelings of guilt. A spouse, family member, or friend can affirm that you made the right decision, based upon her or his own observations of what was happening to you and your parent in the home. Professional therapists can provide even more specific guidance to help you cope.

Finally, realize that as long as Mom or Dad is alive, you are still a caregiver. You can continue to care for and about your loved one by visiting her often, calling when you can’t be there, and keeping informed about care decisions and life at the senior community.

You can still stay involved in your senior loved one’s care after they’ve moved to a senior living community. Bethesda’s Care Management program helps senior residents and their families stay informed and ensures that the senior receives the best possible care at any given time. Contact us to learn more about this unique program, offered at Bethesda’s senior living communities across the St. Louis area.