Caregiver guilt can be a very real and destructive emotion.
It can make you feel like you are not doing enough for your elderly parent.
At the same time, there is also the gnawing feeling of neglecting your other responsibilities including not quarantining time for yourself to get off that treadmill of work for self care.
Spending some quality time with your spouse and having the space and time for peace and quiet becomes a distant memory.
As the youngest of 5 girls, I never thought I would be in the position of becoming the go to person to help out a 99 year old father and 87 year old mother.
Nothing prepares you for the role reversal and suddenly having a list of added responsibilities.
Raised in a culture that expects filial piety of children and having a sense of responsibility to look after them, I found myself experiencing guilt but also resentment.
Resentful that siblings who could help chose not to commit themselves to spend time with our elderly parents.
Feeling bad for other siblings who lived overseas but make financial sacrifices to fly in to help and relieve me of responsibilities.
As I process what seems to be a kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings daily, I am more aware that time out for myself is a non negotiable.
This led me to research this vexed topic of caregiver guilt and more importantly how to manage and handle what sometimes felt like an amorphous fog that does not lift even when there is bright sunshine outside.
So, how do you overcome caregiver guilt?
It is important to give yourself permission to take a break and not feel guilty about it. Take some time out for yourself
Here are a few tips for overcoming it:
1) Talk to someone about how you’re feeling
Talking to a friend, family member, therapist, or any other support system can help you process these feelings and start to overcome them.
If you are a very private person, then grab a journal and pour out your feelings (unedited and unfiltered) onto the page. This can be very cathartic.
2) Set boundaries
It is important to remember that you cannot do it all and that it is okay to say no to more than the usual requests for help.
The first time I said no to an unscheduled request from my parents, I felt awful.
But I survived and now I am the one who communicates clearly when I can schedule a block of time to tend to a problem they want to be sorted.
3) Take care of yourself
Make sure to schedule time for yourself for physical exercise.
Invest in a pair of boxing gloves, wraps and a sturdy boxing bag.
Venting your frustrations on the boxing bag will prevent collateral damage of being impatient and snappy at your spouse and people close to you.
I have found this saves your sanity and marriage.
The bonus is that you will improve your cardiovascular health!
4) Seek help
If you feel like you are struggling or just need some extra support, look for caregiver support groups online.
However, be aware that depending on the dynamic of the group, it can descend into a pity party.
You want to steer clear of those.