Over the many years of running carer support group Aged Care with Ease, I found it doesn’t matter why you are feeling stressed. Whether it’s from relationships, family, work, COVID or caring for your aged loved ones, stress can affect every part of your life and we all want to find out how to reduce that stress.
Guilt free caring is achievable and within reach.
It doesn’t matter if you are caring for your aged loved one in your home, their home or a home, caring is tough and a very emotional and stressful time for everyone involved. Sometimes caring can lead to feelings of guilt, and guilt can take over your life and indeed add more stress to your already stressful caring responsibilities.
What is Guilt?
To achieve guilt free caring we have to look at what guilt is.
- Guilt can happen when one causes harm to another, as a natural emotional response.
- Guilt is self-focused but also highly socially relevant: It’s thought to serve important interpersonal functions by, for example, encouraging the repair of valuable relationships and discouraging acts that could damage them. But in excess, guilt may needlessly burden those who experience it.
- Guilt is typically linked to some specific harm, real or perceived.
- Guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Each and every one of these meanings has an element that resonates with me, however I look at guilt this way:
Guilt is when you feel responsible for something that causes distress or harm to another. It can be real or perceived.
Guilt is when you don’t like upsetting or distressing others. Now, let’s get this straight: you can’t please all the people all the time. And it’s not your responsibility to please them. If you are feeling guilty then work through why. Can you change it?
We have all been there, feeling guilty for something. I want you to understand that sometimes others’ expectations are the issue. Can you talk to them about it? Are their expectations reasonable? Are their expectations something that you can deliver? Just because it is expected it doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty if you can’t deliver it.
What are Your Guilt Boundaries?
Open and honest communication with yourself and others is the key to a successful caring journey and paramount to achieving guilt free caring.
Reducing the guilt in your life and knowing what triggers the guilt will bring you closer to living a life with less stress. Guilt and stress go hand in hand and when you work out your boundaries about guilt it will reduce a lot of pressure.
Ask yourself: What do you feel guilty about? What would you say to your friend if they told you they felt like that? I want you to be your own best friend, and tell yourself what you would tell them.
It’s also important not to compare or judge caring journeys. Each caring journey is different. Each situation within a caring journey is different.
A Common Reason for Guilt
Many members of my support network talk about the guilt they feel because their aged loved ones are in an aged care home. It is one of the biggest issues that is raised. I understand it: I felt the same when we arranged for Dad to move into an aged care home.
It wasn’t until I spent quite some time with him at the home that I realised it was the best place for him. He had all the medical care he needed, the company he needed and the entertainment he enjoyed. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was what he (and we) needed.
There is no reason to feel guilty in providing the best available care for your aged loved one and in many cases that is in an aged care home.
Remember, there is a reason that your aged loved one goes into care. Either they can’t look after themselves anymore, or being at home isn’t safe for them anymore. They need help, and not every family has the ability to provide care needed: they may not live in the same location, and work and family responsibilities can make it unrealistic for you to care for them in your or their home. Sometimes the only option is to have care provided in an aged care home.
There is no reason to feel guilty in providing the best available care for your aged loved one and in many cases that is in an aged care home. Think of it this way – you would have more to feel guilty about if you leave them at home by themselves without the care they need.
My Top Tips for Guilt Free Caring
Caring for your aged loved one will throw lots of challenges at you. There will be good days and not so good days, and there is no need to feel guilty about the decisions you make about your loved one’s care.
On the tough days the following tips can help you deal with any feelings of guilt.
- Take a deep breath. If you’re in a scenario with your aged loved one, step back to give the person space and take some time. A heated response may make the situation worse. What are you reacting to – the situation, or your feelings? It is time for empathy and to find out what the real issue is.
My tip for when you’re feeling stressed doesn’t take much time. It just needs you to stop, be still and concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in for the count of three and out for the count of four. Do this for several minutes and you will feel calmer. Then you can look at the situation and work out what you can do to make it less stressful.
- Is there an issue? Are your emotions fuelling a perceived situation or is there really something going on here? Ask your aged loved one what they think is happening? Talk to your aged loved one and ask their opinion and tell them what you are doing for their care. A lot of the issues are because your aged loved one may feel left out of the decision making.
- Forgive yourself. It’s OK, you are doing the best you can. Mistakes will be made, learn from them. Nothing is perfect and every situation will be a lesson.
One of the biggest things that will help is to forgive yourself. Now that you have forgiven yourself forgive others. Everyone is doing the best they can. Forgiveness is one of the powerful things in guilt free caring. When you forgive there is nothing to be guilty for.
- You never will do it all so well that everyone is happy. You have to remember that you, too, are part of the equation and have every right to have your opinions heard.
- Talk to other caregivers. Sharing your experience will help. You are not alone and it helps to talk about things.
- Find a support network to help you work through the issues. It helps to share the highs and the lows.
- Work out what the issue is and work on strategies to change the situation. Sometimes it isn’t what you think.
- Your feelings matter too. Never ever forget that you matter and it is really important to have your feelings acknowledge and heard. They may not understand your feelings however it is good to have them heard.
Caring isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be that tough and stressful either.
As Napoleon Hill said, “Knowledge is power only if you put into action”.
What are you going to do today to reduce guilt and stress on your caring journey?