4 Myths That Lead to Caregiver Guilt
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and be grateful for the 38 million people who provide care for a loved one in the United States. Being a family caregiver is a challenging yet incredibly meaningful role. They get to support and care for a loved one during a time of need. However, many caregivers often find themselves burdened by feelings of guilt. These feelings can stem from myths and misconceptions about caregiving. These myths can cause caregivers to be unnecessarily hard on themselves or feel constrained by rigid, self-imposed rules about the care they provide. Here are just a few of these myths:
Myth 1: “I should do it all alone.”
One common myth is the belief that a family caregiver should be able to handle everything by themselves. This myth can lead to guilt when one inevitably needs help or a break from caregiving. Everyone needs a break from caregiving from time to time! It’s important to remember that caregiving is a challenging job and every caregiver needs support.
Myth 2: “I should never feel frustrated or resentful.”
Another myth is that caregivers should always be patient and never feel frustrated or resentful. Caregivers are not superhuman. It’s natural to experience a range of complicated emotions about your caregiving role. Feeling guilty about such emotions can be detrimental to your mental health.
Myth 3: “I must sacrifice everything.”
When someone you love is facing a serious health challenge—Alzheimer’s, cancer, a broken hip—it can feel like your own needs are frivolous. Some caregivers believe that they must sacrifice their own needs, wants, and dreams for their loved one’s sake. While caregiving involves sacrifice, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your own well-being. Neglecting self-care can lead to feelings of guilt and burnout.
Myth 4: “I must be perfect.”
Many caregivers feel they must be perfect in their caregiving role. They fear making mistakes or not providing the best care possible. This myth can be paralyzing and lead to a constant sense of guilt. Nobody is perfect, and it’s likely that you are learning some aspects of caregiving “on the job.” Unhealthy perfectionism can give you a false sense of control and interfere with attaining your personal and caregiving goals.
Overcoming caregiver guilt
How can caregivers overcome these myths and the guilt that often accompanies them? The theme of this year’s National Family Caregiver’s month, “Caregivers Connect,” gives us a clue. Connecting with other caregivers can be tremendously helpful. Support groups, in-person or online, can provide a safe space to share experiences, feelings, and advice. Knowing that others face similar challenges can ease feelings of guilt.
Talk to friends and family members about your caregiving journey. Sharing your feelings and concerns with loved ones can help you receive the support you need and reduce guilt.
Practice self-compassion and acknowledge that it’s okay to have limitations and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and caregiving is a learning process.
Take advantage of respite care services to give yourself a break when needed. Remember that self-care is not selfish; it’s essential for your well-being and your ability to provide quality care.
Get professional help. Don’t hesitate to seek help from therapists or counselors if you’re struggling with overwhelming guilt or stress. They can provide strategies to cope with these feelings. An aging life care manager can perform assessments and help families develop and implement a plan of care for older adults with health challenges. And professional in-home caregivers can help you take a break or share the load of caregiving. In-home caregivers also help maintain boundaries by taking on more intimate caregiving tasks like bathing or incontinence care.
Caregivers should be aware of the myths that can lead to feelings of guilt and understand that they are not alone in their struggles. By connecting with other caregivers, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion, caregivers can better navigate the challenges of their role and reduce the burden of guilt that often comes with it.