Caregiver Guilt

Those delightful people who provide care for a loved one with an incurable illness know they have a limited amount of time in which to do all they can to make the life of their family member or friend as comfortable as they possibly can. Not only is their time limited, but so are their skills.  The reality of the matter is that there is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. For the ever-growing number of us learn-as-you-go caregivers, perfection in caregiving is an unreachable goal.

The learn-as-you-go caregiver will make mistakes but I am confident very few of those mistakes will be irreparable or life-threatening. We major on the minor, however, all the while failing to congratulate ourselves on all we have done well, even when those positive efforts far outnumber the bungled efforts we commit along the way.

The performance ideal Failure is Not An Option does not serve most people well and is an ideal that presents a disservice to you and me as volunteer caregiver-learners – that’s who we are when we find ourselves in a situation where “winging it” is the norm. Fortunately, much help can be found on the internet – whether reading about other people’s care-giving experiences through blogs or books, such as is offered by AlzAuthors, or locating nearby support groups that cater to the illness that has claimed those for whom we provide care. Help is out there and we need to seek all we can.

The next time you raise your voice at your care-receiver, or miss the cues she or he is trying to send you regarding their immediate needs, or you admit to yourself and anyone who will listen, that you wish you could walk away from your ever-present responsibilities, go easy on yourself. Think of how you would console someone else who expressed similar sentiments to you as a result of their own life’s circumstances. Would you shame them or unfriend them?

No, you would not. You would treat them with kid gloves. You would provide words of encouragement, reminding them that they are only human and they are doing the very best they can.

You see, when you are doing your very best…you are doing your very best. Nothing more is required of you.


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