If you are acting as a caregiver for a family member in the last stages of life, you are probably familiar with caregiver guilt. You might even harbor a few resentments. It’s important to remember that this is completely normal.
You would have to be superhuman to not feel some level of guilt and resentment in such a stressful and tumultuous time. Your life has been turned upside down. Your perception of your loved one as a strong and capable person is being slowly chipped away each day. You’re asked to make sacrifices and take on responsibilities that might run counter to the life you’ve built for yourself.
And there’s the ever present spectre of death hovering around the edges.
You make these sacrifices, feel resentment and then feel guilt. You sacrifice more. It’s a vicious cycle.
One of the things that caregivers often neglect is their own physical and emotional health. They put so much energy into caring for their loved one, they leave very little for themselves.
The truth is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone — including your loved one approaching the end of their life.
So to that end, we’ve put together a short list of things you can do as a caregiver to deal with feelings of guilt or resentment before they become a problem.
Put a Name to Your Guilt
Don’t allow your guilt to be some hazy, ever-present thing. Name it. Identify it. Take a cold hard look at it. If you’re angry, be angry, but know exactly why you are feeling guilty or angry. You’ll find that once you put a name to something, once you define it, it becomes much more manageable.
There are going to be days where you aren’t the perfect you. There are going to be days when it is all too much and you are at your wit’s end. Forgive yourself when those moments inevitably come. Literally say,”I forgive you,” and mean it.
Once you define the problem, take real action to alleviate it. You might not be able to completely remove the source of your guilt and resentment, but you can take action to reduce it. If that means getting up early to go to the gym or spend some time alone reading the newspaper each day, schedule time to do so. If you need more help, ask for it. If you just need some me time every now and again, arrange to have someone sit with your loved one so you can go out to dinner.
Ask for Help
There are a wealth of resources available to primary caregivers such as: support groups, temporary help, your family, friends etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, even if that help is just a shoulder to cry on.
Stick to Your Plan
Once you’ve made a plan for self-care and how you intend to deal with feelings of guilt and resentment when they arise, stick to the plan. Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed again.
At Affinity Hospice Care, our focus is on helping our patient and their families, including the primary caregiver. Our staff of nurses and counselors are here to help you, even if all you need is an hour of alone time to decompress. Don’t hesitate to ask us for help when you need it. It’s what we are here for.