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Overcoming Caregiver's Guilt

By Mary Jo DiLonardo
WebMD Feature

Caregivers are often pulled in different directions. This can lead to guilt. Maybe you feel you're not doing enough for your loved one. Or that caregiving is taking away time from other members of your family. Or you have feelings of resentment toward the person you're looking after.

And that’s natural.

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But guilt doesn't get you anywhere. It's important to move past those feelings so you can take care of your loved one -- and yourself.

Feeling guilty is normal

Most people in your situation have felt pretty much the same way.

"This feeling of not ever feeling like you're doing a good enough job with anything you're doing is normal. It's unfortunately just a function of being spread too thin," says clinical psychologist Barry J. Jacobs, author of The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers. "People shouldn’t beat themselves up for that. Everyone has to just lower their standards a little bit and do the best they can."

Instead of spending all your time caregiving at the expense of your family, find a balance, Jacobs suggests. A little less time here, a little more time there. Then you're not focusing all your attention in one place or on one person at the expense of someone else.

Get a network of support

It's easy to feel like you're not doing enough if you’re trying to do it all yourself. It’s not going to help you or your loved one if you don’t delegate and get some time for yourself.

"Let it be OK to ask for help," says clinical psychologist Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. Ask for aid with specific tasks, like driving the loved one to a doctor's appointment or bringing a meal. Maybe you have a family member who can help with finances.

You may just need a few hours of time for yourself to decompress.

"People have to learn to pace themselves and replenish themselves," Jacobs says. "When people don’t take care of themselves, they're more likely to burn out.”

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