The experience of caring for an aging family member can be an emotional one; one of the most difficult emotions to grapple with is guilt. Senior caregiver guilt can be the result of dealing with a range of hardships, whether you’re thinking of moving a loved one to assisted living or memory care, missing time with family and friends, or feeling unable to meet seemingly impossible standards, or asking for more help.

As a lifeplan community, we at Knollwood understand all the feelings that loved ones face during this difficult time. For some caregivers, it can be overwhelming—even debilitating. Nevertheless, it’s important to know that you are not alone, and there are several options out there for counseling, respite, and senior care—including here at Knollwood.

So, what are the hallmarks of caregiver guilt, and how can one best cope with the effects?

1) Overcoming Unrealistic Expectations

It’s common for caregivers to set almost insurmountable expectations for themselves. Comparing themselves to others, they may struggle with a mixture of guilt or self-imposed disappointment and insecurity. They often believe that there is always more that they could be doing, or that there are more graceful or strategic ways to handle imminent crises.

In most cases, caregivers are just doing the best they can with the resources at their disposal. Caregivers ultimately know their loved ones best, and that alone can be a powerful force in providing great care.

2) Dealing with Financial Concerns

The financial strain associated with caregiving can seem inescapable. Whether the caregiver has to cut down on work hours or tend to their loved one’s incurred medical expenses, guilt can easily be triggered.

And, not fully understanding financial problems unique to aging loved ones, including costs of short- and long-term care, assisted living costs, respite care costs, and other insurance pricing may be contributing to this confusion and guilt.

A way to overcome these feelings is by getting educated. There are many resources available, whether through financial planners, continuing care communities or in-home care companies, who can provide an overview of these costs and how best to manage them.

3) Making Time for Yourself and Others

Senior caregivers often juggle multiple responsibilities—from work, to family obligations, to caregiving duties. Guilt is bound to arise if some of their caregiving responsibilities begin to overwhelm other aspects of life.

And, more often than not, caregivers may begin to disregard their own personal and health-related needs in favor of the needs of their aging loved one. Isolation from friends and social activities may also result, due to the demands of caregiving.

Connection is one of the most vital parts of life, and it’s important for senior caregivers in particular to maintain normal connections with others and get extra help if need be. You can’t provide adequate care to others, if you don’t take care of yourself!

4) Coping with Loss and Other Complex Emotions

As a caregiver for an aging family member, you will likely be dealing with the decline or loss of that person. In this way, caregivers may feel guilt when it comes to their own grief or the anticipation of life beyond caregiving.

It’s OK to experience these more negative emotions or need a break—after all, you are only human—and more resilient than you think.

Never hesitate to reach out to family, friends, or other therapy-related options to work through these complex emotions!

5) Considering Respite or Assisted Living Care Options

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you haven’t done enough. You are ultimately making a decision for the best long-term care for your loved one. Sometimes it takes more than one or two people to provide them the best care possible!

Addressing senior caregiver guilt sooner than later is imperative, as it can impact the well-being of loved ones and the quality of care provided. Remember, there is support to help navigate those complex emotions and bring about peace of mind. Again, you are not alone.

If you are someone you know is struggling with caregiver guilt and is interested in independent and/or assisted living options, or learning more about senior living community benefits—Knollwood is just a click or call away.

Call (202) 541-0149 to schedule a personal tour or get more information!