Guilt is an almost inevitable part of caring for aging parents. Whether it’s the feeling of not providing enough care, having to restrict the use of automobiles, or power tools for safety reasons, leaving the house without the elder, exchanging angry words when caught in the frustration and fatigue of the moment or the placing of a parent in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you can be sure that guilt will rear its ugly head.
I remember this past Thanksgiving weekend when my kids were visiting from college. On Friday evening there was a parade and tree-lighting ceremony downtown. It would not be a good place to take my father as the weather was poor (rain/snow mixture) and not only would it be chilly, but also slippery. Since my father does not do well in the cold, nor does he walk very well, we decided that he should stay at home.
HE wouldn’t believe it, but I knew he wouldn’t be happy, and he would be both uncomfortable and unsafe at the festivities. If I told him in the morning that he wasn’t going to be able to go, he would fret all day about not being able to do so and also about having what he calls “a baby sitter”. So I didn’t tell him until his caregiver arrived. (I read that this was a good approach – I’m not so sure.) Of course, I felt guilty over not bringing him along and also for keeping it a secret all day.
My most recent feelings of guilt stem from the fact that I receive money to care for my father in my home. He has lived with me for 3 years without my receiving compensation but now that he is “an incapacitated person”, he cannot be left alone, (meaning that I cannot work without having a caregiver with him). I calculated that it would cost more to hire a caregiver than for me to stay home and receive monetary help. This doesn’t sit well with my family (who were almost completely uninvolved for the first 3 years) and they are worried that I’m “using up his money”. I AM using up his money – but it would be used up more quickly with home care providers or an assisted living facility. Never-the-less there are days when I’d like to turn the care over to my family members and say “Here, you do it”.
How does one deal with the guilt?
Be realistic. Take comfort in the fact that you’re doing the best with what you have available to you. If adult diapers are not something you can handle, especially when you are female and they belong to your FATHER, then hiring a caregiver or considering assisted living may be the BEST alternative.
Be aware that you have rights as a caregiver and that caring for a parent should NOT make you sick nor give up your own life; therefore, you should not feel guilty for taking some time for yourself and for your family.
Be gentle with yourself. Guilt is like the other (numerous) emotions that come with caregiving. It is like a cloud floating by, with another cloud of emotion next in line.
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