There are some common feelings that caregivers experience. You know them personally if you are a caregiver or even if you are facing the possibility. They are guilt, inadequacy, and the “ick” factor. Some caregiving moments can be gratifying, and it’s okay to wish that some of them were different. Some days the mantra, “they’d do it for me,” isn’t enough to face what seems gross or uncomfortable. Don’t feel guilty! Welcome to the caregiver’s world. Let’s discover how to care for ourselves emotionally, especially when the caregiving job isn’t letting up.

The definition of guilt is “a sense of having done something wrong or having failed in an obligation.” If we haven’t intentionally inflicted emotional or physical pain on someone, we do not need to feel guilty. As you face your caregiving job, take a deep breath and step back emotionally. It is most helpful to look at each task clinically. It’s okay to regret that something could be done differently from what you did something; it’s how we learn, but don’t confuse regret with guilt.

Most of us don’t have a superhero cape in our closets; probably none of us do. So don’t feel guilty asking for help. The role of a caregiver is to ensure our loved one gets the best care. It’s often not in our best interest, or the care receiver’s to have us do every task. Friends can come in to entertain with games or conversation. A group of my husband’s friends used to come once a week to play cards with snacks and coffee provided. It was a good distraction for both of us.

Think local! A youth group at church or your local school can help with yard work. I will say that mowing the lawn was a fresh air relief most weeks for me but don’t be afraid to look into local groups that will help. Trips to the hospital to stay with your loved one are exhausting; ask for help. A few neighbors or friends may be glad to pick up a few pantry items for you as they shop. Often friends want to help but don’t know how to give the support needed.

When guilt sets in, ask yourself if what you are thinking is true. Often our thoughts get skewed by over-commitment or expecting too much from ourselves or our care receiver. Take a short break to give yourself the freedom to think something through.

It’s okay not to enjoy the person you are caring for at all times. They are likely to feel frustrated with life and their situation. No one likes to watch themselves age and lose their independence. They may take their frustration out on the person closest to them, you. You’ve lost your independence too! It’s good to take breaks, get fresh air, breathe, and enjoy something you like doing without guilt. 

A fresh perspective is just what is needed! In truth, you are an essential part of the caregiving equation, and you need to stay strong and fresh. Talk anything over that needs to be better understood by both of you. Make this a time of drawing closer and understanding each other more.