Steering Clear of Caregiver Guilt

As part of a sibling team of caregivers for nearly a decade while raising my own three children, there were many times I felt guilty I wasn’t doing enough for those I loved.  I would drive myself to distraction trying to keep everyone’s needs met while neglecting my own and often feeling resentment while I struggled along.

Statistics Canada reports that one in four caregivers are part of the “sandwich” generation, caught in the middle between raising children and caring for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member.  Approximately 50 per cent of these caregivers are between the ages of 45 and 66, the peak earning years.

Caregivers, especially those looking after elderly or ill parents while raising a family and /or building a career, are often plagued by guilt when they fail to meet the high expectations they set for themselves.  Self care falls to the end of the list and caregivers can make themselves sick from stress, lack of exercise, poor diet and insufficient sleep.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, nearly 17 per cent of the 5.5 million Canadian caregivers are coping with “very difficult” levels of caregiver stress.  A 2012 report, Informing the Future, labelled caregiving as a red level (very high) risk for excessive stress. “The demands of family caregiving can result in overwhelming stress on a day-to-day and longer-term basis putting a caregiver’s own health at risk.”

Guilt is a self-imposed emotion which can be kept in check if caregivers treat themselves with the same kindness and forgiveness they offer others.  Much like worry, guilt can be a destructive force for those who spend needless time feeling inadequate about the amount of time, financial assistance or emotional support they can offer.

Acknowledge your feelings of guilt and try and reach out to others who can empathize and help you move through the stress of the situation.  Allow yourself to lower expectations and let yourself find happiness and joy even in difficult times.  By making time for yourself,  stress can be managed and resentment avoided.  We hear it all the time but caring for the caregiver is an essential in order to keep up the fight without falling into depression or damaging your own health.

Coping tips:

  • Look for a caregiver support group either online or in the community
  • Find time for yourself to recharge – go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, attend a concert
  • Ask for help from family and friends or look for community-based programs
  • Divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable jobs
  • Research respite care in your area

For a list of support groups in your area visit: .