Banishing Caregiver's Remorse

Banishing Caregiver’s Remorse

No matter how much time you spend caregiving, you may feel like you are not doing enough … that you can never do enough. I certainly felt like that many times. It was easy to beat myself up when I felt I dropped the ball on caregiving to work or tend to other family matters, but sometimes I just dropped the ball because I was tired of holding the ball!

All kinds of caregiving situations can produce remorse — full-time care in the home or long-distance caregiving if a loved one lives elsewhere. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines remorse as a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs; self-reproach. Caregivers can get lost in remorse because caregiving usually combines difficult and complex circumstances with intimate relationships, a combustible combination!

In cases of day-to-day caregiving, you may feel that you are too emotional, or unable to keep up with all the information and treatments that are available. In long-distance caregiving, you may feel torn, like you should make more time to be with your loved one, when in reality, there is no time that works out if you want to pay the bills and responsibly handle your own life.

Why do caregivers feel this way? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Isolation A caregiver is usually the primarily person with the individual he or she cares for and not frequently out socially. Even if a person is a long-distance caregiver, he or she may feel emotionally isolated and trapped in a state of guilt and constant worry.
  • Many caregivers are not trained in caregiving, nursing, or psychology so they face a long learning curve. If a caregiver happens to be a nurse, doctor, or psychologist, he or she may feel particularly inadequate when treatments or remedies don’t work.
  • Caregiving is intimate — Caregivers often see what the rest of the world does not see and that can create feelings of disconnection. When a loved one is sweet to outsiders but nasty to the caregiver, confusion and resentment can build. Each caregiving situation is vastly different depending upon both the person being cared for and the caregiver. Each has its own set of unspoken rules between the two parties based on past history and personality.

Five ways to banish caregiver remorse:

  1. Give yourself credit for showing up, for taking responsibility, for being there.
  2. Ask yourself if you would judge someone else as harshly as you are judging yourself.
  3. Acknowledge all the things you did right. List them in your mind — remember the smiles you coaxed, the emergencies you handled, the comfort you provided and know that you made a difference to a loved one in need.
  4. If you are currently caregiving, lighten up! When you make a mistake, turn it into a joke: “It’s so kind of you to let me practice on you! Just ten more times and I’ll get it right!” Remember, there is a learning curve and not everything you do will be perfect the first time. Laughter is a great diffuser.
  5. If the person you cared for is gone, admit your shortcomings in prayer or in writing, offer your heartfelt apology, and let it go. If you can’t forgive yourself, and this affects the rest of your life, seek counseling.

Comments (13)

The day I literally dropped my husband while transferring him from the wheelchair to the bed, I felt like I had dropped the metaphorical ball! Maintaining a sense of humor is so crucial. Months later we laugh about it, but I remember judging myself very harshly in the moment. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of self-forgiveness!!
thank you for this. I am a full time care giver to my husband who has an anoxic brain injury. I can tell you that finding time for myself and doing things for myself does make me feel guilty, but I also know it is necessary in order to stay sane. I relieve my stresses as a caregiver by training for triathlons and other running races. I have also finally after a few years accepted offers of help from others. Before I would feel I was pawning him off to someone else, but now know it is necessary to give myself a break. I do feel often at times that I do not do enough or there has to be something better I can do.
thank you for making me smile i have been taking of the man of my life for 11 years who has T B I he really tries so hard thank you again darlene & glen
Taking care of a person with a brain injury is hard work. If you haven't done it you cannot possibly understand. No 2 days are ever exactly alike and the good days can change to bad days in an instant. Its those bad days that I feel guilty when I think I can't do this anymore.
Well written. Much appreciated.
Thank you! I'm going to share this on my Fragile X Syndrome parents' group page!
Thank you, Rosemary for sharing your thoughts, views and experience with those of us caring for a loved one with a TBI. My husband currently lives away from home in a long-term residential brain injury facility. I miss him every day, even when I'm with him! And you're right; I sometimes berate myself for not being with him more, but I'm the only one who can pay the bills, keep up the house, etc. It truly is exhausting.
How am I to cope with the fact that my husband is having to give up his softball the thing that got him through the broken neck back in august. I feel very guilty over the fact that I am the one pushing to get more help. I knew that him giving up the Softball is the best option right now.
Wow this touches home for me with my patient because im a caregiver (HHA) And the part about how they're so nice to other but nasty to the person caring for them is what im going thru now...my patient has Dementia
Thank you so much for sharing this and all other postings on your blog. I am relatively new as a care giver , my husband suffered TBI from car accident in Aug 2012, now i am caring for him at home with therqpist coming over few times week. Apart being exhausted, i still have boys (7,5 and10 y.o.) to take care of, in-laws, husband, family members who always judging.....i don't know how long i can do this. Yet i know that God is able to detect when i am about to snap......He always give me a way out ....keep your hope up fellow care givers.....we are here for a reason.....i choose to live life to the fullest everyday, regardless what others and circumstance say!
I truly appreciate the acknowledgement of caregiving being intimate. Often I feel alone in that no one knows how it is on this side of the fence. Everyone loves my husband and he is a great guy but...I live with him and know the reality of the TBI.
I'm thrilled that you write about every part of this experience, and that others going through it can relate and respond. Thank you.
Thank you Rosemary. I appreciate your sharing of your experience living with a loved one with TBI. My husband suffered a TBI in a bicycle accident 2-1/2 years ago and I have been the primary care giver since, handling all medical, financial decisions that needed to be made. Having this supportive blog really helps, especially reading all the other sharings.