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The emotional “mind” field of caregivers.

By: Family Pathways Aging Services Caregiver Consultant, Jayne Mund

 

Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all.

~Deborah Day

 

A caregiver I recently spoke with said, “I feel guilty all the time. When I’m with my father, who just went into a nursing home, I feel guilty I’m not with the kids. When I’m with the kids, I feel guilty about neglecting my husband. And when I take that occasional trip to the gym I feel guilty about letting everyone down.”

Guilt is clearly a common feeling in the landscape of caregiving. Dark feelings, like guilt, sadness, and depression are real and normal for caregivers. It’s easy to think that if we had acted differently things would be better. Usually this just isn’t so. Do these examples sound familiar?

  • “What if we had kept mom at home instead of placing her in memory care?”
  • “If only I had not gone out with friends for lunch the day Jim had a stroke?”
  • “I should have insisted dad see his doctor when his pain first started.”
  • “I shouldn’t have yelled at my spouse. She can’t help it that she can’t remember.”

 

When you have these feelings ask yourself if what you are actually feeling is regret, a sense of remorse, rather than guilt? Regret is sorrow over something that has happened. It may be something that we have done or left undone. For example, “I wish I would have told my dad more that I loved him. Now it’s too late.” Guilt is what we feel when we act wrongfully or hurtfully toward another person, or when we believe that we have done so. Guilt is rational when we have actually caused hurt. Guilt is irrational when we falsely perceive that we have acted wrongfully or hurtful. As human beings we have an amazing ability to feel guilty when anything goes wrong, whether or not we are responsible. It can be helpful to ask yourself; “Did I really do something wrong or do I just wish I had done something differently?” “Am I feeling guilt or is it really regret that I am feeling?” It is so important to constructively deal with feelings of guilt. Here are some helpful ways to move through these tough feelings:

  • Admit mistakes. Apologize.
  • Correct the situation, if possible.
  • Forgive yourself. Accept your humanity.
  • Ask forgiveness.
  • Learn from the experience and go on.
  • Seek counseling as needed.
  • Recognize feelings of guilt, learn from them, take action and then move on.
  •  

It is important to realize that you did the best you could at the time with the information and the resources that were available. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can.

 

For more information about Family Pathways caregiver support and local resources contact specialist Jayne Mund at 763-689-8811 or Aging Services Program Manager Lise Arseneau-Lee at 651-674-8040.

There is Hope. There is Help.