It’s no secret that being a caregiver is a large undertaking. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. In today’s world, many of us are more transparent about our mental health. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to hear about the mental strain a family caregiver may be experiencing. Feelings of guilt, exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety are all common when taking on the role of a caregiver and can make an already challenging time harder.
Signs & Symptoms of Caregiver Guilt
- Detachment– A feeling of going through the motions, knowing you have duties, completing them, but feeling no connection.
- Role Confusion– The lines of a relationship between a caregiver and a dependent can become blurred. You may start to feel like you are no longer a spouse, partner, child, or friend. This may lead to anger.
- Helplessness– Even after all you do, it doesn’t feel like you’re making a difference. It’s important to remember in the face of terminal illness, things may not get better. Your role may solely be to provide comfort.
- Depression– On top of the balancing act you may be doing, you are facing potential loss and may already be experiencing grief for the person you’re caring for.
In short, it’s important to remember that these signs and symptoms, among others, are common. Despite our best efforts, life changes when you assume the caregiver role. Change alone can be a driver of our emotions and well-being.
Combating Caregiving Guilt & Burnout
It’s easy to forget about or not see the priority in self care. However, it is best to be honest with ourselves about this. Pouring from an empty cup will impact your ability to be a present and helpful caregiver. You deserve an hour or two of good in each day. In other words, what makes you happy in life? This can be a time to read, go to the gym, or watch your favorite reality show. These brain breaks are just as good for your mental health as eating or sleeping. So, self-care is something you must block out in your calendar. Whatever it is, you deserve it, and those you’re caring for will understand.
Self-care also involves taking care of your health. Think of it this way: if you want to give the best care possible, it starts with you! Proper sleep, eating healthy, and getting fresh air are all elements of a happy life. As aforementioned, caregiving may take a toll on our physical health, but also our mental health. Consider talking to a therapist or clergy member about your caregiver experience. Additionally, ask someone to be your go-to. When you’re feeling overwhelmed have a designated friend or family member to lend a listening ear.
Try one of these things, if you feel a bit overwhelmed with your caregiver role.
- Consider buying into a meal delivery service.
- Save time planning meals, shopping, and cooking. Meal delivery services bring this right to your door, and you’re in control of your order.
- Start your morning with fresh air.
- Whether it’s a walk or eating breakfast outside you’re sure to feel refreshed.
- Keep a journal to track your anxiety triggers.
- Grab a journal and write about your day and when you felt overwhelmed. This can help you find patterns so you can better avoid triggers. You can also find many prompt ideas online.
- Download The Mindfulness App and end the day with a meditation session to wind down.
- Create a “Positivity Playlist” with all your favorite songs.
- 10 Minute Declutter
- Set a timer for 10 minutes, turn on some music, and pick up some clutter around the house. The difference a slightly more organized space can make will amaze you.
As illnesses progress, be realistic about care. Although it may not feel like it, there’s power in admitting you can’t do it all. This shows your intent to be a helpful caregiver. Respite services can be provided in-home to help give you a much-deserved break. Additionally, it’s important to prioritize conversations with the dependent party’s physician on when hospice or palliative care might be needed. In conclusion, keep in mind that opting for hospice care can be emotional; however, it should not be looked at as “giving up”. Hospice of Southern Illinois offers a team approach to care that makes sure your loved one’s end-of-life journey is comfortable and dignified.
Mental Health Resources
Local Caregiver Resources
Are you a caregiver local to the MetroEast? If so, you can find support through AgeSmart! Get access to all things from caregiver support groups to educational resources to safety. Additionally, for those local to Southern Illinois, check out the Egyptian Area Agency on Aging for access to homecare programs, day services, counseling, and more.
Alliance, F. C. (n.d.). Caregiver statistics: Demographics. Caregiver Statistics: Demographics . https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-statistics-demographics/
Jacobs, B. J. (2022, August 23). Caregivers: Living With Guilt. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/living-with-guilt-bjj.html
MSW, I. W. (2020, December 18). Caregiver guilt: Causes, getting help & ways to cope. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/caregiver-guilt/#:~:text=Signs%20%26%20Symptoms%20of%20Caregiver%20Guilt,-There%20are%20a&text=The%20common%20signs%20and%20symptoms,not%20wanting%20to%20do%20it.&text=Resentment%3A%20feeling%20unappreciated%20for%20the,help%20and%20not%20getting%20it.