Caregiver Guilt: Your Inner Judge and Jury

Kathy Eynon, Parent Care Alliance

Feeling Guilty?

I doubt that there are many things that caregivers do better than guilt.  Whether you are caring for an elderly parent, your children or another loved one, you likely have experienced this to a greater or lesser degree at some point.

Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving according to humorist Erma Bombeck.  There is no doubt that guilt can be a very powerful driver in our lives.

And as caregivers, aren’t there just a vast number of things that we can use to feed that guilt!!

You may feel guilty when you lose your patience with your elderly mother or perhaps you have been complaining about not having enough sleep or time for yourself.  You feel guilty when Dad asks when you are coming again to see him or calls you for the 4th time in an hour and you don’t pick up the phone.  Maybe you didn’t get a particular task done when you hoped you would or let something fall between the cracks.

Most humans, especially caregivers, are extremely good at taking on all of the expectations of not just our cultures and possibly our religions, but also our families as well!  Add to that jury the toughest critic of all, you, and you have quite a crowd mulling around in your head!  And they become quite good at sharing what they thing about something that you have done or have failed to do.

Of course not all guilt is bad.  Good guilt causes us to examine ourselves and make a change in our behavior if it is needed.  This might be the guilt you experience when you lose your patience with a loved one who has dementia and you have responded negatively to something that they can no longer control.  At times like this, guilt may be the poke you need to, perhaps, try a little harder next time.

But bad guilt doesn’t usually have a constructive side.  This is the guilt you feel over a situation that you cannot change or control; or, over something that is actually positive for you the caregiver.  Perhaps your mother must go into rehab after she has fallen and broken a hip.  She doesn’t like it there and repeatedly makes you aware of that.  Can you feel the guilt building?

Or, maybe you are finally making arrangements to go away for a much needed, and deserved, vacation and your father is fighting you about bringing in some respite care to take over while you are gone.  Is the pit in your stomach tightening yet?

And some caregivers even feel the need to experience guilt because they are experiencing happiness!  Did you ever take a step away from the caregiving to go out for a nice dinner and find yourself feeling guilty about enjoying yourself?  Then you know about Happiness Guilt.

Yes, guilt loves high standards.  But guess what, life happens.  Nobody is perfect.  And no matter how much you love the person you are caring for you are not going to be able to prevent every fall or illness.  A bill might get missed and your temper may spill over at times.  Don’t let the small list of things that slip by get overshadowed in your mind by the long list of things that don’t.  Being a good caregiver 80-90% of the time may be a more realistic expectation!

So, challenge your inner jury.  Push back with a good defense and know that you are doing the best that you can.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

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Preventing Caregiver Burnout – Find Your Tribe

Being a caregiver for an elderly parent can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed.  One thing that I encourage people to do is to find their tribe.  This is a person or group of people that can help be your ‘judgment free zone’; your safe place to fall when you have reached the end of your rope…….

 

 

Making this a priority could be the thing that saves you from being taken under by your caregiving role!  Remember to put yourself at the top of the list at least sometimes!

On the journey with you,

Kathy

 

Dueling Daughters, Battling Brothers

Family Discord

Family Discord

Sadly, I have witnessed many times at the end of a parent’s life, the adult child (or children) failing to honor the wishes of their mother or father in the end of life care decisions.  And if there is disagreement amongst the siblings, it can create bad feelings at a time when there are already enough ‘bad’ feelings to go around.

Maybe the parents did not have the forethought to create the documents that they needed to assure that their wishes were made clear.  Maybe they did not communicate their wishes fully to their children.  Maybe the documents were done, but for some reason the child (or children) decides to ignore those wishes and determine treatment based on what they would like (or are comfortable with).

And when you have one child that wants to do one thing and another child that feels differently, it creates a situation of bad feelings.  For the one who wants to advocate for the parents’ wishes, they feel that they have failed if they do not prevail.  And for the child that is choosing their own wishes over that of the parents, there is an underlying, deep reason that is trumping those wishes.  And when both sides are vested in being ‘right’, nobody ‘wins’.

To those of you who find yourselves in this position I encourage you to take a step back.

If you are making care decisions based on your wishes rather than that of your parents (whether they are documented or not), I would ask that you examine why and to think about what you would feel if somebody did not honor your wishes at the end.  We all have different beliefs about end of life care and that is OK!  What I think is most important is that we can see our way clear to honor our parents’ wishes even if they differ from our own just as we would want our children to honor ours even if they believed differently.

And if you are the child trying to push to honor your parents’ wishes, I would challenge you to look at the relationship that you have with your siblings and think about what ‘winning’ on that issue will cost you in the way of your relationship going forward.  I absolutely believe and advocate for the rights of seniors, but in the end, family harmony can be a powerful navigation system.

Maybe my thoughts on that are a legacy from my own father.  He definitely had different views about end of life than I have, but did communicate at the time of making his living will that he placed a premium on family harmony in end of life decisions.  Maybe there was a wisdom there that I didn’t fully grasp at the time.

This time of transition is difficult enough without disharmony in the family.  If you need to work through these issues, be kind to each other.  You are all dealing with this disagreement at a time when there are already deep emotional feelings.  Try to remember that your siblings are having some of the same feelings and see your way clear to approach them with some compassion.

And if you can do this, you will truly have honored your parents’ lives in the best way that you can, by loving each other.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Long Term Care – Why Your Future Care Needs Must Be Considered

70% of people reaching the age of 65 will need some type of care assistance in the future.  Have you planned accordingly for that care?

 

 

I purchased my long term care insurance not only to protect myself but also my children.  It’s just one more thing that we don’t have to worry about quite so much…….

On the journey with you,

Kathy

6 Things That Your Elderly Parents Might Be Worried About

Worries About Loneliness

Worries About Loneliness

It seems that at no point in life do we become totally worry free.  Though I try valiantly to avoid worrying about things that I can’t control, and I realize that most of what we worry about never comes to pass, still it finds its way in at times.

I read once that Michael J. Fox takes this approach about worry:  He chooses not to worry about things because then if the worst comes to pass, he has to live through it twice.  Seems like a great way to treat worry!

And while we may think that if we could just get past the working years, get the kids out of the house, and settle into retirement, we will have little to worry about, it would appear that this is not the case.

Seniors have lots on their minds!

The top 6 things that seniors worry about are:

1.  Running out of money.  With people living longer and with more chronic health conditions this can be a real concern!  None of us wishes to outlive our money.  And with the ever increasing costs of healthcare, the fear may be justified.

2.  Having no purpose in life.  After what may have been years of a career, not having that piece of your life, can feel like a big, gaping hole.  This sometimes leads to depression and feelings of uselessness.

3.  Loneliness.  As social circles shrink and the ability to get out and about becomes increasingly difficult and fatiguing, loneliness can be a real issue.  Finding new ways to stay engaged can be a great challenge for an elderly person.

4.  Elder abuse and neglect.  You may have the best intentions in caring for your parents, but with so many stories about folks being the target of neglect, abuse and scams, it’s no wonder that this is a concern for many!  Hearing tales from friends, about how their kids ‘treated’ them, can cause this worry to become disproportionate to their actual experiences.

5.  Burdening someone else with chronic illness.  Again, living longer, and in more compromised medical condition, is a reality for many.  The burden, even if you don’t consider it one, often does fall to family because that is what families do for each other.  So, not necessarily an unwarranted worry……

6.  Moving out of the family home.  This can be the biggest transition that we face; giving up our home can feel to some, like simply giving up.  The loss can feel overwhelming at a time when loss may be huge in our life.

When you consider all that they have on their minds, is it any wonder that we encounter resistance and reluctance from our aging parents?  Few are fully ‘ready’.  Change is difficult even in the best of times, but I think we all recognize that as we age, change becomes ever more difficult.  We all get set in our ways.  We like things the way we like them.  We do things the way we do because we have always done them that way and it works for us.

So, as you try to assist your parents in easing through the transitions, keep these things in mind.  It might allow you to be just a little less frustrated and a little more compassionate and understanding.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Send me a message!  I would love to hear from you!

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.