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Coping With Guilt When Caring For Elderly Loved Ones

Coping with Guilt when Caring for Elderly Loved Ones

Caring for an elderly family member can often be a demanding job and the greatest strain is usually emotional. Along with the love, tenderness and patience a caregiver feels for their elderly loved one, feelings of frustration, sadness, fear, impatience and above all, guilt are often experienced. Having many years experience providing eldercare in Montreal, we know that learning to cope with these emotional challenges is essential for the caregiver’s own well-being, which will then allow them to provide the best care they can for their loved one.

Causes for Guilt

Feelings of guilt arise from the gap between the care we believe we ought to provide to our loved one and the care we are able to provide. For example, faced with her mother’s advancing memory loss, a daughter may feel terrible about placing her mother in a long-term care residence, believing that she should be caring for her mother herself, as her mother cared for her. Unfortunately, the demands of a full-time job, children and managing a household make it impossible to provide the care her mom needs. Because she is unable to meet the expectations she has placed on herself, she feels guilty.

Coping with the Guilt

Guilt can manifest itself as anxiety or feeling overwhelmed. Constantly having to make choices, such as missing work to take your dad to a doctor’s appointment or not visiting your mother all week because of your kids’ activities, can leave you feeling like you are falling short in all areas. The feelings of guilt which stem from not being able to fulfill all the expectations you have put on yourself can lead to resentment, which can be very detrimental to both you and those you care for. Here are three steps to help cope with feelings of guilt:

Identify the emotions

In order to cope with the guilt, resentment or any feeling you are experiencing about your elderly loved one you must first acknowledge the emotion and what is causing it. For example, “I feel guilty for going out for dinner with my friends when I know my mom is all alone in her apartment”. Sharing your feelings with someone you are close to is also helpful.

Evaluate the cause

Once you have acknowledged the emotions you are experiencing, it is important to examine whether the cause is reasonable. For example, it is not reasonable to expect yourself to devote every evening to keep your mother company. Carving out time to relax and recharge is critical to your own mental and physical health. In order to maintain care for others, you must also care for yourself.

Set realistic expectations

In order to set realistic expectations of yourself, you must first evaluate all your responsibilities (i.e. work, family, household) as well as your time and resources. Once you figure out what you can reasonably manage, you need to accept your limitations and forgive yourself. Focus on alternative solutions, such as seeking help to ensure that your elderly loved one’s needs are met.

Caring for an elderly family member can be a daunting and exhausting job. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or require assistance with home care in Montreal for a senior member of your family.

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