How to Feel Less Guilty About Not Wanting to Care for Your Parents

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What is Caregiver Guilt?

As your loved one enters a new season in life, there will be changes for everyone. As a result, some of those changes will affect your daily life as well. Naturally, it is normal to feel apprehensive and unsure about some of those changes, especially ones that will affect your time and finances. Consequently, it’s important to learn how to feel less guilty.

No matter how much you care for your loved one, there will be times where you may struggle in the new role and responsibility you have. This is normal and expected. Sometimes these feelings of resentment, apprehension, or frustration can boomerang into guilt. Ultimately, the burden of guilt will only make your job that much harder. Let’s unpack some sources of caregiver guilt and ways to overcome them.

Grownup daughter seems frustrated and struggles to be patient with elderly mother who is upset with her head in her hand

What if I Don’t Want to Be a Caregiver?

Despite what you have heard or read, there is more than one way to care well for an aging adult. While many families opt for a child or close family member to take the leadership role in caregiving, there are multiple options. Reasons from family structure, to children, to finances, may mean that caretaking is not be a reasonable addition to your life. If you feel like you cannot be a caregiver, it is ok to consider other options: 

How to Feel Less Guilty through Family

Are there are other family members or siblings that are able to take on that leadership role? Oftentimes we default to the eldest or geographically closest child of the aging parent to being the key caregiver. However, consider creatively exploring other family supports that might be more suited to take on that role.

How to Feel Less Guilty by Hiring Help

If financially this is feasible, there is no shame in hiring caretaking help. Firstly, consider having this conversation with your loved one. Make sure they understand the need for outside help and bring them alongside the hiring process. Professional caretaking assistance ranges from full-time or live-in options to quick hourly check-ins a few hours a week. Next, find someone who fits your needs and budget and someone with which your loved one feels comfortable.

How to Feel Less Guilty by Mixing Solutions

Many families find success in their caregiving journey when they combine several strategies. As a result, you can diminish caregiver burnout and guilt. Perhaps a combination of multiple siblings rotating care is necessary. Maybe you, your spouse, and a part-time hired hand can share caretaking duties. Explore options that still honor your loved one well without forcing you into a role you are not prepared to take.

Adult son feels guilty after disagreeing with elderly mother

What if I Make Decisions They Don’t Like?

Perhaps the greatest source of caregiver guilt begins when you must make a decision against your loved one’s preference. Perhaps you feel guilt for putting a parent in an assisted living environment against their will. Or, maybe from hiring an at-home nurse because you feel medically overwhelmed with their needs. These decisions are bound to come. For, it is an inevitable part of most aging journeys. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Start having conversations with your loved one early, observing concerns. For instance, “Mom, I’ve noticed it’s really hard for you to feel comfortable at home.”
  • Invite them into the problem-solving process, if competently able. For instance: “Mom, is there some way we can make you safer at home?”
  • When you need to make a difficult decision, get the whole team of caretakers on board. A united team will allow for smoother transitions.
  • If you make a decision that your loved one is against, try your best to include them in the transition process. For instance: “Mom, I know you are not happy about moving into an assisted living program, but I would love for you to tour 3 with me and give your feedback on which program you like. I want to listen to your preferences.”
  • Once you make the decision, let it be. If you focus or act on your guilt, it will only create chaos for your loved one. Stick to what you decide, implement it well, and let any guilt go.
Mother and daughter speaking on couch

Should I Feel Guilty About Not Spending Time with my Parents?

Caretaker guilt can easily creep in when we feel like our time is overly demanded. As a result, you may feel like your love one is consuming your life. Maybe your loved one is making you feel guilt for not spending enough time with them. In reality, you will most likely not be able to give your loved one as much time as they ideally would like. That does not mean you should feel guilty. Instead, focus on the time you can offer your loved one and commit to doing it well:

  • Communicate with your parent about expectations and make sure you are on the same page. How often do they want to see or hear from you and what can you reasonably offer them?
  • Prioritize what is important. If your aging adult is still fairly independent, prioritize quality time, fun, and conversation. If your loved one is less mobile, perhaps prioritize helping them with chores and tasks they need done to feel normal. Assess needs with the time available and make choices wisely.
  • Check-in with your parent regularly. Protecting your time well should not require guilt. However, commit to making sure the plan is still working for your loved one and adjust as needed.
Woman shows feelings of guilt and exhausted

When Elderly Parents Make You Feel Guilty

As your loved one ages, there may be times where they seem unsatisfied or hurt. As a result, you may feel guilty when in reality you are trying your best. You may even wonder why your parent is guilt-tripping you. Despite these feelings, it is important to try to not take the guilt trip personally.

There are a variety of reasons from cognitive, to cultural, to psychological as to why your parent is giving you a guilt trip. Most of them have very little to do with you but rather the changes your parent is experiencing. If you are giving your greatest care and communicating with your parent the best you can, dismiss the guilt-trip. Focus your energy on giving quality care instead of guilt.

Senior Woman Sit on sofa spend free time at home using laptop to communicate

How to Not Give Up Your Life to Care for an Elderly Parent

You are only your best caretaker when you are your best self. Therefore, this means still prioritizing your own life and your own needs. If you feel like your elderly parent is consuming your life, it is probably time to focus on your own self-care and creating boundaries. Self-care is not selfish. Actually, it allows you to balance two equally important people: yourself and your loved one.

Perhaps your situation is a more complicated decision, like moving away, that is causing guilt. Similar to making a hard decision for your parent, there are ways to ease this process of making a hard decision in your own life:

  • Communicate early with your loved one.
  • Invite them into the conversation and let them feel what they feel.
  • Create space for problem-solving and new ideas.
  • Create a plan and implement your decision.
  • Release the guilt and caretake as best you can under your new plan.
Cheerful lady in glasses talking on cellphone

Create Workable Boundaries

Caretaker burnout, stress, and guilt often go hand-in-hand. If your guilt has become overwhelming, you are likely also experiencing a high level of burnout or stress. First, consider the roots of your guilt. Is it coming from a place of feeling like a failure or not doing enough? Refocus on the root of the problem: a lack of reasonable boundaries and expectations. If needed, revisit your caretaking role and perhaps reformat it to be more sustainable for you while still caring for your loved one well. You might be surprised how many of those feeling of guilt may fade away.

Portrait of a smiling and confident senior 87 years old cute in a hat with a mustache

WE CARE AS YOU CARE

We at Beverly’s Daughter want to care for YOU as you care for others. Caregiver guilt is common and can be overwhelming. We understand that. However, we want to help relieve you of your guilt and find creative solutions for your care. While every caretaking journey is unique, we would love to connect with you on yours. We are ready to jump in and support you as you determine the next step in care for your loved one. 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Have any questions? Want to leave a comment? Looking for more resources? Continue the conversation below! 

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Guilt Gets in the Way of care

Guilt is a common feeling when we are balancing multiple responsibilities. However, it ultimately will get in the way of your best care. Remember, if you are giving your best self to caring for your loved one, while respecting your needed boundaries, let go of the guilt. However, when guilt resurfaces, assess if something needs to readdressed for your loved one. If not, commit to a loving caregiving journey without guilt. 

You and your loved one can both experience care

Your loved one can still be well cared for, even when you’re caring for yourself. There are resources, tips, and ideas on how to balance your boundaries while loving your aging adult well. At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to help you create a plan for care and find creative solutions for you both. 

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