Caregiver Guilt: 15 Reasons for It and 1 Way to Overcome It

As a working mother I am pretty close to guilt-free, but caregiver guilt is a different story. I just can’t feel bad about providing for my family. And I never feel guilty if I put my family ahead of my work. But as a working daughter, I am less successful managing guilt. Guilt is very common, perhaps even inevitable, among family caregivers. The reasons caregivers feel guilty are plentiful:

caregiver guilt

  1. Guilt they are not spending enough time with their parent(s).
  2. Guilt they are not spending enough time with their kids because they are spending time with their parent(s).
  3. Guilt that their spouse is the last person they think about.
  4. Guilt that they are not taking care of themselves.
  5. Guilt that they make their well-being a priority and never miss a workout.
  6. Guilt that they are unfocused at work due to their caregiving to-do lists.
  7. Guilt that they care about career when they have parents and a family to care for.
  8. Guilt for forgetting to do something for their parent(s) because their week was so crazy.
  9. Guilt for moving their parent(s) to senior living.
  10. Guilt for letting their parent(s) stay in a home they can no longer handle.
  11. Guilt for not moving their parent(s) in with them.
  12. Guilt that they did move their parent(s) in and it is impacting their kids and spouse.
  13. Guilt for resenting the time caregiving takes.
  14. Guilt for rushing or judging their elderly parent(s).
  15. Major guilt for sometimes thinking that their life would be easier if their parent(s) died.

Caregiver guilt runs the gamut from thinking your actions hurt someone (I didn’t visit and they were lonely), to wishing you did something but didn’t (I wanted to call yesterday but I didn’t), guilt that you didn’t do enough to help someone (see items 1-12 above), and guilt for what you are thinking (see items 13, 14 and 15).

Not all guilt is bad. As caregivers, we need to pay attention to our guilt and what it is telling us. If we feel guilty because we wanted to do something but we didn’t, we can change our behaviors. For example, if you want to provide an occasional meal to someone who can no longer cook, stock the pantry with the ingredients for one or two easy-to-make meals or keep the delivery number for the local deli in your phone contacts. If you feel guilty about what you are thinking, take steps to make sure you don’t act on those feelings and take comfort in the fact they are only thoughts.

When examining your guilt, you need to check your feelings of omnipotence. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings. And you do not factor as much in someone’s life as your guilt would lead you to believe. Guilt makes you think you have more power than you do. You do not. Guilt makes you think you have more power than you do. You do not. Share on XBehavior experts call this disproportionate guilt. It makes you feel responsible for things you have no control over – like other people’s lives. And when you act out of disproportionate guilt, you start to grow resentful. This is the bad guilt.

So how do you stop the guilt cycle? You eliminate one powerful word from your vocabulary: Should.

Take a few minutes and listen to the “shoulds” in your head. As a caregiver, your head is probably full of them. Are you surprised at how many there are? How many of those shoulds are your own voice and how many are based on someone else’s value system playing in your head? Chances are your shoulds come from other people: your parents, siblings, professional caregivers, doctors, so-called experts, the media. You should move your father into your home. You should take time off of work to help your parents. You should call/visit/help more. When you act on shoulds, instead of on your own wants, you grow resentful – fast. Stop shoulding all over yourself. Share on XAnd, at the end of the day, the only opinion that really matters is the one you have of yourself. Only you know the circumstances, the time constraints, the resources, and the relationships that impact you as a caregiver. Others may judge; but that’s not your issue. In order to overcome harmful caregiver guilt, lose the shoulds. Here’s how:

Get a piece of paper and fold it into two columns. In the left column, list all of the shoulds playing in your head. Then, in the right column, list the things you truly want to do as a caregiver. Don’t worry about how you will accomplish those things, or what the outcome will look like, just list them. Don’t think about this exercise too much, just start writing.

When you have exhausted the lists, look for the relationships between the shoulds and the wants. In the left hand column may be something like, “I should visit my Mom daily and help her so she can remain in her home.” That “should” may have a match on the right that looks like this, “I want to help my mother live as independently as possible.” Now think about where you truly must step in and make that want happen. Do you really need to take over running your mother’s household in order for her to stay at home? Of course not. Perhaps siblings can help. Perhaps a home health aid is an option. Maybe your mother just needs to retrofit the house. Maybe she just needs rides to appointments, or meals delivered a few days a week. See? You are not all powerful in your mother’s life. She, and you, have many options. Act on what you want to do to help, not what you think you should do.

When my mother stopped driving, I felt like I should take her grocery shopping every weekend. I felt like that is what my relatives thought a good daughter should do. But I worked all week and only had 48 brief hours each weekend to rest, spend time with my children, run my own errands, etc. But because I listened to “should” I drove three hours round trip every weekend and took my mother, on her walker, to the grocery store. The trip to the store took forever and I always rushed home as soon as the groceries were all put away. And I was cranky. I was cranky while I was with my mother. I was cranky at home with my husband. I was cranky with my kids because I felt squeezed for time. Nobody won. And then one day, it just clicked. I wanted to get groceries for my mother. I did not want to take her to the store. I was willing to order the food online, or do the shopping by myself because it was faster. And I wasn’t all-powerful in my mother’s life. If she didn’t like what I was willing to offer, she had other options. And so I started ordering the groceries online and visiting with her on the weekends. My mother missed her trips to the store, but sometimes a neighbor would take her, she always had food, and I had more time to sit and visit with her.

Here’s another example. In the should column you may have written something like, “I should accompany my father to all of his doctor’s appointments.” The match in the want column might say, “I want to be my father’s healthcare proxy and advocate.” There are ways to achieve what you want without spending several hours a month, or week, in waiting rooms. You can schedule consultations with the doctor. You can email the doctor questions. You can be a powerful and effective proxy without taking time out of work, or away from your kids.

You can be a good daughter with less guilt and less resentment. You just need to lose the shoulds.

For more on managing caregiver guilt:

The Dos and Don’ts of Managing Caregiver Guiltcaregiver guilt

What I Need You To Know About Caregiver Guiltwhatineedyoutoknow

Strategies for Moving a Parent Into Senior LivingScreen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.19.13 AM


101 comments on “Caregiver Guilt: 15 Reasons for It and 1 Way to Overcome It”

    • Sally H. Reply

      This article is so helpful… I feel my guilt hard realizing it is self indulgent…why does it make me feel better

      • admin Reply

        Habit. We have to make not feeling guilty the new habit. Practice. Practice. Practice.

  1. Susan Bonifant Reply

    How timely. I can’t even articulate how much this post meant to me right now. I can tell you I’ve bookmarked it because I’ll have to return to these insights more than once. Thank you.

    Guilt is a python.

    • Daniel Clay Reply

      This forum is very helpful to me. My Mom actually lived with my wife, kids and myself for five years and we saw her through many surgeries. She was finally able to live on her own for a couple of years, but we had to move her to an assisted living home for seven months and now to a memory care facility for the past six months. I see her 1-2 times a week but I can’t keep that frequency up and the guilt is killing me.

      • admin Reply

        I am so sorry that you too are wrestling with guilt. Try to focus on what you are doing well (you are committed to seeing your mother every week despite all of your other responsibilities) instead of what you are not doing.

    • admin Reply

      I’m sorry Heather. We do the best we can and our circumstances are all different. The fact you feel guilt implies you are a caring person. Forgive.

      • Gigi Reply

        Very helpful article. It makes total sense but it’s difficult. I’m 55 and my mom is a good 95 year old living in her home. She wants to stay in her home. My husband and I work on the sidelines to do what we can to make things easy for her. I’m an only child with no other family. I work full time and I’m able to coordinate things for her when I’m not there or help when I am there. I have a good neighbor that takes my mom on Wednesdays. My mom die to memory doesn’t remember any of the things I do for her. Makes me sad but it’s not about me. It’s about doing the right thing and helping her as she’s in her winter years. However I still feel guilt but your article is helpful. Thank you.

    • Paul wright Reply

      Yes I agree feel guilty trying to Balance work my home life and looking after dad as much as possible.I feel exhausted at times and very guilty even tho I see dad everyday and phone him early morning and later every evening as he lives 2 miles from me.

      I supported him during mums terminal cancer she died end 2018 and dads got Prostate Cancer doing ok for 78 with all his other health issues.

      Think it’s trying to balance everything going on ,but it’s impossible task.

      Anyway that’s my view and I wish everyone the best take Care


  2. Rena McDaniel Reply

    I am so glad to hear that it isn’t just me! Great piece Liz! I was nodding my head the whole way through.

    • Linda Bundy Reply

      Your article helped me immensely. The guilt list is spot on!
      I take my mom to doctor appointments, hair appointments, and grocery shopping. I used to split this up between myself and a brother but his car has issues driving very far now and his wife was hospitalized for a few weeks, she’s thankfully recovering at home.
      For me, I run three to four days a week and I’m retired, about to turn 70. I also help my kids with a great granddaughter one morning a week before her preschool starts just after lunch. I enjoy her immensely but she is only four and a little demanding.
      I set the alarm to go walk on the treadmill (the high school track in the summer) for myself and that’s my only reward, before running mom around, and I try to remind myself mom is giving me something to do or I might get bored, while trying to stay positive.
      Frankly, this is not the retirement I always wanted after a difficult 50 yrs of waiting hand and foot in the workplace in four states for others.
      My husband makes fabulous money and he chooses to work (he’s a go getter type). I’m five yrs older than he. He goes to bed early for an early morning hour job, so dinners are around 5 pm. I plan the week’s schedule and meals in the evening when the husband goes to bed; I use the crockpot so I’m not too tired to cook after Mom’s afternoon hair appointments that get me home late afternoons.
      The only question I have is “Am I being taken advantage of? ” I seem to be doing a lot of helping and not really enjoying myself with fun hobbies or whatever retired people enjoy. I’m tired at the end of the day, I gave up a fun job in a tourist town with lunches out with friends….. to do all of this. Sometimes I feel like I have no reward for the years I worked.
      I’ll finish with this: after reading my comment above it looks to me like I should set aside some fun plans for myself and time to rest, maybe get some help for mom with the free county transportation service until my brother can possibly get back to helping and cut down my “mom runs” to two times a week. Would you agree? Thanks very much

      • admin Reply

        Hi! I think only you really know if you are being taken advantage of. I think it comes down to who do you want to be and how do you want to be vs. what do you want to do? And I also think it’s our responsibility to enjoy ourselves. So I think it’s wonerful you help your mother AND I think it would be wonderful to prioritize you too!

  3. Pam Boudrot Reply

    My mother died two months ago to the day. I moved cross country to help out with her the last 5 years and I still feel guilty about things I didn’t do, times I would get frustrated, etc. . I know it is irrational guilt and I did more than most people do for their parents, but it is nice to hear I am not the only one. Freeing yourself from guilt is hard.

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry for your loss Pam. The loss of a mother is a big deal. 1. You are not the only one and 2. Guilt is part of grieving. You’re in early days. Be kind to yourself.

  4. Kelly Reply

    I feel like whoever was writing this was speaking directly to me, I have a hard time feeling anything these days except guilt, I hate myself for even thinking about 15.

    • admin Reply

      Kelly, I am glad you connected with the post but I am sorry you are struggling with guilt. Please know, many people think about 15. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your parent(s). It means you are stressed, practical, sad to see them suffer…so many things – but not a bad person.

  5. Pingback: Time Poverty: The Working Daughter’s Struggle - Working Daughter

  6. Ivy Reply

    I feel guilty since my mom passed away 2 years ago until now. I feel guilty of not treating her nicely due to stress and tension taking care for her in a year. I guess it will never go away until I die. However the only thing I would do is to not think about it. But sometimes it strikes me back and the sadness and guilt affect my mood all over again. 🙁

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry for your loss Ivy. And I feel for you that the guilt persists. One of the things I hear so often from people is that the work of caring makes them feel less like a daughter/son and more like a professional caregiver. It can be hard to balance both roles – and both sets of emotions.

      • Toni Reply

        I keep thinking if I did the right thing by not sending Mom to hospital this was her wish

        • admin Reply

          All we can do is our best in the amount of time we have with the info we have at that time. Trust you did what was right.

    • Lisa Reply

      Guilt of not spending 23/7 with my terminally ill dad is hard. He lives on his own and has end stage NSCLC and COPD. I run my own business and have cut my hours down dramatically to spend time 2/3 days a week with him around my business, my teenage son, two large dogs that need running, and my SO and running a large house, cleaning, cooking, constant hospice, hospital appointments or phone calls. My brother uses excuses to see him for an hour 1/2 times a month and today after working a 4 day week and all of the above, and next week is another stressful and anxiety driven time as I’m taking my dad for a CT scan for him to find out where the cancer has metastasised to and how long he has. Last weekend he stayed over Sat to Monday, then back again on the Tuesday, and I’ve called and messaged all week from Weds throughout and today we were picking him up to stay again for the weekend, but I need a day off. Ive just messaged him early hours this morning saying pretty much that, I’m shattered and need a day to recharge. And now I feel like a bad daughter for not wanting to spend today with him, as he may or may not have much time left. I have been the one that cares for him when I possibly can, been the one to take him to the undertakers to sort what he’d like for his funeral, last weekend writing down his instructions for his wishes for his will etc. And it breaks my heart every single day watching him fade away. But today, just for one day I really need a day off for me to catch my breath. Yet now I have sent that message I feel uncomfortable and intolerable guilt. Is this normal?

      • admin Reply

        Lisa it is completely normal and completely unfair. Unfair that one person is called on to be doctor, nurse, earner, parent, daughter, nutritionist, life manager, social support. Try to focus on all you ARE doing instead of the little time of you take. And if you can’t shift you’re thinking then remember those breaks you give yourself are to recharge so you can do what you do. Hang in there. You are doing an amazing job!

  7. Kitten Reply

    Number 15 has been growing like an ugly monster. Naturally it is only a thought. I live ten minutes from my mother’s nursing home and have been her main visitor for seven years as my sibs live out of state and have significant health issues of their own. For a year and a half she has been completely bedridden and on hospice with no joy in lasting another five or ten years like this. I’m finding my move to the place I want to live out my dreams on hold until my mother dies. I’m starting to be afraid my life is slipping away while my mother consumes me.

    • admin Reply

      I’m glad you are here Kitten. It’s helpful to know we are not the only ones who feel the way we do – especially when they are thoughts we feel guilty about. One of the hardest things in caregiving is when you feel like you are the only person someone is relying on for everything – visits, appointments, etc.

      • Sherry Naylor Reply

        You hit it on the nail’s like am the only one for my dad and it’s all o er whelming .

        • Senta Reply

          I feel exactly the same. I have spoiled my dad over the 5 years he as been in town. I am the only child left. My brother passed away when he was 26 and my mom also passed away 8 years ago. I took him almost everywhere with the family. He is 84 now and it is getting so much strain looking after him. He lets me feel so guilty if he needs to stay in the old age home on a weekend. My guild is destroying me. I am not the person I was. Sad and stressed out of my mind. Can someone please give me advice how to cope with this.

    • Sad Daughter Reply

      This completely resonates with me and I feel so guilty for it. My situation is that I have been living with my elderly parents the last couple years and recently decided to take the next step and move in with my long term boyfriend; as timing would have it, my mother was diagnosed with a tumour around the same time I made the decision. I decided to put my move on hold so I can be around to help my parents for at least the first few chemo rounds, and I feel like this compounded with the pandemic is taking a huge toll on me – I feel sad and resentful that the pandemic and now my mom’s condition has put my life on hold, but also guilty for wanting to start my independent life in that if I do move away I won’t be around to help out my parents as needed and because I owe it to them to help for everything they have done for me.

      • admin Reply

        I understand. But from an outsider’s perspective it’s clear to see you are feeling guilty for having very human feelings! Who wouldn’t prefer moving forward with a boyfriend to dealing with illness in the midst of a global lockdown? Try t judge your actions instead of your thoughts. You are showing up for your parents and there’s no guilt in that! Read this:

        And try to use this time to work toward a goal for when the pandemic ends.Thanks for writing.

  8. Bobbie Brown Reply

    I’ve been my mother’s caregiver for the last 7 years now. Up until the last 2 years, she was pretty self sufficient. Just needed help with things she couldn’t do. Now, she’s 96, and pretty much depends on me for everything. I gave up working last October because trying to work 40+ hours a week, then working 40+ hours at home taking care of her, and the house and the yard, etc. etc. just was getting to be too much. So now, I am her full time caregiver. I basically have no help. I’m pretty much on my own. I have 4 brothers who are all married. Only 2 of them live close enough to help out. I have had their help, but only when I ask for it, and, when I do, I have to request time way ahead so they can “work” their lives around it. I never get a call saying hey, how would you like to take next weekend off or is there anything you would like to do? I have no friends anymore, they all seem to disappear too when you can’t spend time with them either. I have a wonderful man in my life who I’ve been seeing for 3 1/2 years now. He’s very understanding when any dinner plans we might make have to be cancelled at the last moment. I feel that my personal life is swirling out of control. I think I’m becoming more and more depressed, even though I take 3 different medications for it. I know, I could start seeing a therapist, and I think I will. The major problem with this is insurance. Since I am unemployed, I get insurance through the State of Indiana. You would think, that since it’s a state funded insurance, everyone would accept it. Wrong. There’s a lot of places that don’t. Long story short, I’m at a loss on what to do. Any suggestions would be great……I feel alone and trapped at the same time. I love my mother, and absolutely HATE to see her going downhill like this, but I could be facing several more years in this situation too. Thanks for listening !

    • admin Reply


      I am sorry you are struggling. I’m doing some research on what’s available to you in Indiana and will be in touch.

  9. Shawn Garriott Reply

    I was a caregiver for my parents….my mother had multiple heart surgeries and my father had a stroke …..he could not use the whole right side of his body …so he could not take care of her…..I stepped in for the last 6 years of her life……Me my husband and both kids…….Its been 8 years now since she passed…….I would not change a damn thing…….I got crap from my other siblings but none of them stepped up …………Yes I could have done more with my kids and did things differently ……..But I am glad I didnt now…….I know in my heart I did the right thing and being with my mother everyday was a true blessing….I just wish I had more years than I did…….. Yes you get stressed out and you get down on yourself, you wish you could do things differently…….But you need to stop yourself and cherish what time you have…….cause when they are gone ….your gonna wish you had more time

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for sharing Shawn. No one prepares us for this so all we can do is follow our instincts and heart.

  10. Maura Reply

    This was wonderful and wish I’d had it during the many years I was caregiving to my parents. But knowing you did all you could does not alleviate some of the guilt (your word) or regrets (my word). I grieve deeply the loss of my mom just a tad bit over a year ago but know in my heart I did all for her and took care of her to the best of my ability. I appreciated all the time we had together especially during the last year when she was in a nursing facility. YES ! Appreciate this time!

    • admin Reply

      Maura, I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you were able to appreciate the time together in the nursing home – sometimes its not until someone’s life slows that we can just stop and appreciate time with them.

  11. Kim Reply

    I took over caregiving responsibilities for my grandmother several years ago after my father passed ( I was his Caregiver during his short battle with cancer- I never thought I’d see the day when he would have no pride left and let me bathe him, etc.) But, for the past 3 years I have moved from my own home with my husband and into my grandmother’s house because I already felt guilty having her move from northern CA to the Los Angeles area and didn’t want to further intrude. She will be 100 yrs old in just a few months, but the past two years have been a stressful merry-go-round as she has battled with recurring UTIs and, most recently, dysphagia that forced her to have a permanent g-tube in place, something not often done at her age, but her Alzheimer’s is fairly new and she still has the capability of having a decent qualitdy of life. Unfortunately, I do find myself feeling resentful. I had to quit working, up t off my chest wn health issues, give up friends, the ability to travel to see my young grandchildren, etc. I felt so bad for feeling grateful she had to spend time in nursing home for rehab after her surgery because it allowed me time with my own family. I left it to my brothers to step up and visit, ensure she was well cared for, etc. Now, a few months later, I find myself prone to impatience with her, annoyed she wakes me at all hours with the doorbell we gave her. She forgets what it is, sometimes, but other times I think she does it work n purpose because she doesn’t want to be awake by herself, even at 3:00am. My guilt of s overwhelming. Taking care of my grandmother was the only thing my dad asked me to do just before he died. I’m in my mid-fifties and soon will need help myself, not to mention the strain on my marriage at a time we should really be able to be our closest with an empty nest. I don’t have the answers, I don’t know if there are any. I just find myself trudging through the days and nights as best I can as her care is required 24/7/7.

    • admin Reply

      Kim, I am sorry you have so much to manage but i am glad you are here. Together we will figure out the answers – starting by raising these issues, making them visible to other people who can help, and creating a community because caregiving is isolating and none of us should go through it alone.

    • Dark Sky Reply

      I have been caring for my father for about 10 years. He lost his wife at the age of 52 and never remarried. He has always been a hard working immigrant with a no nonsense and narcissistic personality. My sister took her life in 2014. She struggled with PTSD and depression from my father’s verbal abuse and lack of empathy. Now that I am his only caregiver, he is very abusive, never says thank you, and he is never wrong. Everything is my fault, and I can do nothing right. I believe he has undiagnosed mental illness. He has, over the years, had 6 DUI’s, a shop lifting charge, has rented his house out to questionable people and has recently been scammed out of $9,500 from a woman and man who followed him home from the store and got him to go out to lunch with them and proceeded to steal his wallet and go on a spending spree. I am very traumatized. I have been there, ALWAYS, to try and prevent him from getting in trouble. I ALWAYS pick up the pieces. I feel guilt because I can’t stop his chaotic behavior. I have lived my whole life listening to him berrate me and my sister, and I still love him and do everything I can to help him. I cook, I clean, I fix the messes he gets into, I make sure he goes to the doctor, I buy his groceries — he will not spend money on groceries, heat, water, or any kind of care. I have come to realize that he is very sick. He smokes and smokes all day long, and he yells at me and dismissed me and generally treats me poorly. I don’t know what to do. I am going into a deep depression. I have cameras all over his house, because it keeps him safe, and I can check in, when I have to leave for my mental health. Writing this, I can see how insane he is, but he is old, now, and his behavior has been like this his entire life. It’s just getting worse. I feel guilt for not getting the security cameras sooner, I feel guilt because I am not a more capable person, I feel guilt because I can’t take his abuse, and I feel guilt because every time he gets in trouble, I blame myself for not being smarter to have seen it coming and done something to change it’s course. I am exhausted and cannot do this much longer.

      • admin Reply

        I am sorry you are dealing with so much – exhausted and feeling guilt. It sounds like you have done an amazing job for your father. I hope you will consider addressing his mental health – perhaps with his primary care. Consider that he may need care that you cannot provide him and that while it can feel like betrayal to have professionals care for him, it is often a compassionate act – getting someone the care they deserve. Also, consider this: your life has worth and value and you deserve the best possible care and conditions for you too Hang in there!

  12. Meg Reply

    Excellent article. My aunt died in July. While guilt sneaks in, I know that I did everything that I could possible do and had the capacity to give. I miss her deeply, but together we worked to make her comfortable. I found carrying guilt around with me, made me less present to her. She deserved to have the very best I could give at the time. Thank you.

  13. Pingback: Finding Balance: Identify Your Non-Negotiables - Working Daughter

  14. Jonathan Stoner Reply

    Im about 13 and im suffering from #1 because I can only spend time with my grandparents during summer break, spring break,ect. Whenever I get back from a trip,about an hour after I arive home I burst into tears. Normally it lasts about a day or 2, but this time its been going on for a week. This article has really hellped me figure out ways to spend more time with them during summer break . Hopefully it will ease the pain next time. Thank you!

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for writing Jonathan. I’m sorry you are feeling so sad and guilty. It sounds like you care quite a bit about your grandparents. If they know that, that is pretty special and more important than the amount of time you are with them.

  15. Jv Reply

    I missed so many signals that my Mom’s health was failing… She was always a little frail but never complained. I guess I got use to her using a walker and losing the use of her right arm from a fall. When she had a second stroke – I also had suffered a stroke too and decided I needed to think of myself. She experienced a 3rd stroke in the nursing home age 83 and I didn’t recognize it as a stroke but thought of it as a decline. I visited her a couple times a week but could have done so much more. The guilt is unbearable. Thanks for listening

    • admin Reply

      I’m sorry to hear you are carrying so much guilt. Know this: it is very hard to recognize when our parents need help. We think we should be able to recognize the signs and intervene, but we just can’t always see it as it is happening.

  16. Hilda Reply

    I helped my elderly Dad for years. I did not want him living in filth, he could not have cared less. As his heath issues mounted, he became very critical and there at the end, he was pretty mean. My only sibling will never understand what I went through, because I suppose it’s easier to love from a distance. It was very confusing for me. I had no idea it would be that way, but then again I never had to walk in my Dad’s shoes, facing steady decline and death. It’s been a few months since he passed, and if I let myself, I can think of a hundred different ways I could have been more understanding and sweet. But I know I did the best I could. Not everybody will step up to such a task as this caregiving, with no immediate reward. It’s just what you do when there’s nobody else to do it. Taking care of the elderly is not really respected in this society. You just try and do what you feel is right.

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Hilda. Please keep reminding yourself that you did the best you could. There is always more to do. There are always moments where we could have been more patient, more caring, more graceful. But we’re human. What matters is that you cared.

  17. Anonymous Reply

    Thanks for the post.
    I lost my mother to cancer on 15 May 18 and since then I have been engulfed in guilt. Although I tried my best efforts while taking care of her, I face the guilt of things that I did not do when she was fine. I used to take her for granted and only used to call her once in 2-3 days. Although I never shouted on her or fights but the amount of talking my peers do with their mothers, I was not doing the same. Also there were some situations where I would have acted differently in the past. Now she is gone and I wish I can go back in time and correct those things.

    She always loved me and wanted me to be happy but I was stuck up in my own issues due to which I did not focus on improving her standard of living and also giving more comfort to her. All my relatives say that I did my best and my mother will be proud of me but somewhere inside my heart I feel guilt and void.

    Sometimes I feel demotivated to live but I have other responsibilities due to which I need to be strong. I wish that after I die I meet my mother again just to say “I am sorry mom”.

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry you are missing your mother and feel guilt. First, if you feel demotivated to live, please seek support. 1-800-273-8255 is the number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. Guilt is brutal, I understand. There is always more we could have done as caregivers. There are also perfectly reasonable and acceptable reasons why we did what we did – the best we could with the time, resources, and knowledge we had. Grief is a process and my hope is with time you will believe your relatives – that you made your mother proud.

  18. Pingback: How To Take a Much Needed Vacation As a Caregiver By Tobi Johnston MA, MSW, RSW and Jessica Bell – Caregivers Network

  19. Pingback: How To Take a Much Needed Vacation As a Caregiver By Tobi Johnston MA, MSW, RSW and Jessica Bell BID – Caregivers Network

  20. C Cassavaugh Reply

    My mother had a stroke over a year ago and can still live in her house across the street she expects me there every day after work to I take her shopping every weekend bring her home cooked meals which she always finds fault with. Have to do all her banking, set up appointments miss work to take her make phone calls fill out paperwork and on and on. I want to save her house which I found out she refinanced after my Dad passed but I am beginning to not care anymore let it go to the state which makes me so sad. She was an only child and tends to think it’s all about her very selfish. Lately I just don’t even want to see her but my brother who lives 5 min away can only fit in helping when it suits him maybe his wife brings a meal once or twice a month and of course my Mom has to tell me how wonderful it is. She gave him her car which I could have sold to help with her heat and gives him whatever he wants from the house. But I have to buy her food and give her all my time. I am going to set a rule with her that I will no stop in every day SICK OF IT and want my LIFE Back she hardly ever thanks me.

    • admin Reply

      You have the right to set boundaries. IT’s not easy, but your life is equally important.

    • daughter Reply

      Please believe me when I say that when she dies you will forget all you have sacrificed, and will miss her like you never imagined you could. You will also think intensely of all the things you could have done in addition

  21. Susie Reply

    I found your article helpful and validating. People who have not been on this journey often say things like, “If I only had one more day with my mother.” They refer to a mother who passed away at a young age. What I wouldn’t give to be with my mother at that age for one more day. My mother is not that mother. People also blurt out shoulds as if we had not thought about these things yet. “Why can’t you just…?” It makes me not want to talk to anyone about my poor mother’s situation. Your article “took care” of me and I wanted to let you know I appreciate your effort and insight. Thank you.

    • admin Reply

      Thank you for the feedback Susie. Hang in there and try to let other people’s ill-informed opinions go in one ear and out the other.

  22. Freida Reply

    My very disabled mother decided to move to Florida 5 years ago. We have no family there. She lives in an efficiency apartment in a senior residence. She has a good social and personal support system there. Only thing is – no family. My other siblings have deeper pockets and can make the trip (airfare/hotel) from time to time. None of us are getting any younger either. Personally I am struggling financially and have many practical problems to take care of. I am single and making this trip is not on my radar.
    Mom used to live 30 minutes away. I had no problem visiting her then. Now, it’s another story. I do feel somewhat guilty but mostly sad that she is so far away. I cannot abandon taking care of my own welfare (keeping a roof over my head, paying for food and electric bills, my health – the basics) in order to jet off to hang out with her. She has no extra room so I’d have to stay in a hotel. I don’t drive and just the cost of racing down there and spending money I don’t have using energy I am basically out of – well, I just can’t do it.
    All these thoughts 1-15 have crossed my mind but I am not a magician so I accept I do what I can and I am at peace with that. I had always helped my elderly relatives who lived in my area. I don’t have a problem pitching in. Parents who move far from their children run the risk of not being able to see their children. My mother has moved frequently in her life. I do not have the means or the desire to follow her around where’ve she goes. Those are her decisions- that I “should” be able to go. But that is not the reality of my situation. If I were a millionaire and had the luxury, I would go. Since I am just scraping by, I am staying where I am and taking care of my basic necessities.
    As I sad, I don’t feel guilty, just very sad.

    • admin Reply

      That is a sad scenario and one you usually hear about in reverse – adult child moving away from parent.

      • Doris Reply

        My father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinsons a few years ago. Then mom passed away, and it seemed unthinkable for him to live on his own in the house they shared. He now lives one floor beneath me in an apartment complex where I have lived for the past 11 years. I have a lot of guilt about not seeing him every day. Not that he wants me to do that, but I feel that I should do a better job of looking after him. I buy his groceries, take him to appointments, and help him with anything he needs….selling his truck, home, and camper. I still work full-time, am single but have children and grandchildren who would like to see me as well. I am 62 and have 5 sisters who either live too far away to be physically available to help or who will not acknowledge that their help is needed. They are turning a blind eye to the situation as I am making most of the decisions for dad’s care. I just do it as it would get much to confusing if I asked everyone their opinion beforehand. Anyway, at this point (it has been 1 1/2 years now) I am exhausted from feeling guilty, doing all the work etc. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest D

  23. Pingback: Letting go of Guilt | THE VOICE OF CHRISTIAN CAREGIVERS

  24. A very guilty kid Reply

    My dad recently passed unexpectedly and I am having such a hard time with the “shoulda’s” it is just killing me. Long story short, My folks moved away 15 years ago across the country as my dad wanted to leave the area and start over again somewhere else.. I stayed behind. Now my Mom and I have always been close but not my dad and me and it was only until recently I put the pieces together to realize he was a narcissist. Perfection was always expected and he was always angry — taking it out verbally on me and mom (and then just mom when they moved away). Every day I would call and be worried if he was making her cry. I’d call daily and sometimes he would talk to me about current events but mostly would just pass the phone to her. I knew he had health issues and I never asked hi and now it’s too late. I let my anger about how he treated my mom get in the way of being a good daughter to him. I would sometimes think about number 15 being the only way my mom could come home as he never wanted to move back and now I feel like I willed the universe to make it happen. The guilt is overwhelming and I’ve asked him to forgive me for always asking to give mom the phone or for just wanting him to go away because it hurt me how he made my mom cry daily. I just don’t know what to do but I feel like the worst human on the planet. I didn’t know he was that sick and it was so sudden that my mom didn’t even realize. I tell her she can live without regrets because she gave him everything he wanted and always tried to make him happy but I failed him so bad. I’m even a little mad that she didn’t tell me he was that bad or I would have flown to see him, which I had not done in 6 years since his health scare in 2013. My mom would fly out 2x a year to come back home and stay with me but he would never join her and then again I never asked. I feel horrible for all that I do for my mom and I couldn’t even tell him I loved him before he died. Guilt. Regrets. Loss… I just want him to know I’m sorry, and I did care but that I hated how he made mom cry with his verbal lashings. I’m overwhelmed and the gaping hole his passing has left in my heart is now overflowing with all the regrets mentioned above plus a few more. Aside from some emails back and forth to him and some Christmas and Father’s Day/birthday cards, I let him down and I cannot forgive myself for being blinded by my own desire to protect my mom.

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry for your loss and that you are hurting so much. First, you didn’t will anything. We don’t have that power. I understand that you are feeling that way but please let yourself off the hook for that. Second, when someone dies we don’t just grieve the person, we often grieve what we wish our relationship and life had been with them – that’s where the guilt comes from. But in reality, our relationships probably wouldn’t be much different if we were give second chances – because we are human and we have flaws and relationships are hard sometimes. You did the best you could and you’ve been great to your mother. Try to focus on what you’ve done well.

  25. Karen Can Reply

    My husband & two teenage boys took both of my parents in because of a medical emergency with my Mom. It has been medical crisis after medical crisis and it has negatively affected my family. We have lost our freedom, our privacy and our home is no longer our refuge. My Dad has congestive heart failure, brain injury due to a hemorrhage and now has Multiple Myeloma and is going through chemo and radiation. They had no plan, no savings and went through their retirement $$$ in 6 years and are in 75k of debt!!! My mom qualified for Medicaid but my dad did not because he brings in too much in SS! This basically means that they will not be able to go to the same facility, when that time comes. I need to put my family first. I want my life back… how could I separate my parents in two places? We don’t have funds to places them and and the sad part is that my parents don’t see the burden that they have become. I want to help but not at my own family’s expense anymore. How can we tell them that it is time for them to go?

    • admin Reply

      I recommend consulting an elderlaw attorney who can help your family figure out what all of your options are.

  26. Chetan Reply

    I live in India in a different city than my parents. My mom is super emotional, My dad is comparatively much more emotionally composed (although he has gone through a massive heart surgery). I video call my parents everyday and talk to them. My Mom makes it a point to say that we should come live with her, at times subtly but at times she starts crying that she misses me and my wife.

    I feel VERY guilty that I don’t stay with them (because the city which my parents stay does not have much job opportunity), I don’t take care of them, and that I am very ambitious in my career and it will not advance if I stay with my parents. Now I am planning to shift to a foreign country to promote my career, however I do not know if it will break my parents (especially my Mom). Some where I have a fear that my kid will do the same to me and there would no one to give me company in my old age (and that may be my Mom is right when she says Money and career are secondary to family)

    Me and my wife are in a very sound relationship with our immediate and extended family members. My family is not very financially
    stable thus I want to earn money by shifting to a foreign country so that I can support them financially, now and in long run.

    I am not sure if I am making a selfish decision or a matured decision ?

  27. Kabir Reply

    Hi, I live in a different city than my parents (800 miles) as my hometown does not have great career opportunity. My wife and myself are in a very good relationship with both sides of parents. My mom is super emotional, my dad is comparatively a lot more composed. I talk to my parents daily over video call and most of the time my mom asks me and my wife to shift back to our hometown with them, sometimes subtly but sometimes she starts crying on missing me and my wife.
    She makes me feel guilty that I might have chosen my parents over my career, that i could have taken better care of them and that my dad having a heart attack survivor needs me emotionally to be there anything else. Though I do whatever I can, that guilt haunts me day and night.
    I am very ambitious with regards to my career, both because I want to and also because my family is not very well to do and my dad has struggled throughout his life to put food on table (Though it is a lot better now than 10 years before), so I want to create a corpus and decent lifestyle for myself and my parents and in-laws (they too are not well off).
    Now I am deciding to move to a foreign land for better career prospects and I am do not know how to disclose this to my parents as it might break them (especially my Mom). But if i do not do and stay nearer to my parents and meet them often like we do now I will always feel guilty that I could have done a lot better with my career and life and that I did not do it.

    I am sandwiched between these 2 guilt and now my health is taking a toll because of stress.

  28. Ash Reply

    I’ve been supporting my sister with MS for over 6 years. She’s finally getting control of her body with the proper medication and diagnoses. in the past years she’s suffered from mental and fiscal issues. When she moved in with me 6 years ago, I had no idea what I was taking on. She was more independent, but her misdiagnosis passed a few trips to the mental institution.

    Now, that she’s getting better it’s a relief for me. I’ve been dating my boy friend for the last 6 months and we want to move in together. He’s a lost love and we’ve rekindled our relationship after being out of touch for 8 years. She’s every unsupportive for my relationship, she the only person in my life who isn’t excited for me.

    I love her and I want to make sure she’s okay, but I can’t spend the last good years of my fertility taking care of my sister. I want to move in with him and start a family.

    I hard wanting to start living for myself again, but I feel guilty for leaving her alone and guilty for resenting her.

    • admin Reply

      I am sure your sister is scared about you moving ahead with your boyfriend and life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.Try to move ahead with equal parts courage and compassion.The courage to live the life you want and deserve and the compassion to support your sister and her fears on your terms.

  29. Victoria Reply

    I’ve been the primary caregiver for my 85 year old mother for the last 6 years. We both sold our homes 6 years ago, pooled our funds and bought a larger house together so she could have the downstairs and we could have the up. It was really my husbands idea saying we could then (together) care for her in our home. Since then she has had high blood pressure issues, heart issues, surgeries, intestinal issues etc. which have landed her in the ER, multiple surgeries, follow up visits and home care. Of which I take her and sit by her side endlessly.

    I also work full time and have two teenage daughters.

    My husband also committed suicide last year, leaving me not only to deal with my own and my children’s grief, but to take on the burden of her care completely on my own. I have two sisters but they live several hours away and are virtually no help.

    A month ago I took her into the ER for diarrhea and dehydration. She ended up in the hospital for a month with severe Crohn’s and had to get a total colostomy. Which means colostomy bag, plus catheter and a very long recovery period and home care. I pictured my life slipping away even more, to have to help her deal with all that.

    Three days ago she decided enough was enough, she became completely detached, refused medication , said she was done and didn’t want to fight anymore, and the hospital had to respect those wishes. I cried for two days. Said my goodbyes and accepted the fact that this was the end. I also started to glimpse some personal relief. She wasn’t going to be sick and in pain any more, I was going to get my life back so I could focus again on my work, my kids and myself. I made peace with the situation . I started thinking about travel, about weekend trips with the kids. Even dreamed about working out. Sleeping a full night…

    Yesterday she came back around, started talking and and has decided to resume medication and try to get better. My emotions are a roller coaster. I am relieved obviously, but I also am flooded with this impending sense of doom again that I am now handcuffed to my mom again. And now I feel incredibly guilty, like I am just such a terrible person! How could I even be bummed that she wants to fight and live?! And now I know I’m going to have to go through the trauma of saying goodbye again!

    I don’t know what to do with all these emotions.

    • admin Reply

      Dear Victoria,

      I am sorry for all that you and your family have endured. Please know your emotions are totally normal. We have a term at Working Daughter we call grelief : a mix of grief and relief. If you’re not already, consider a professional counselor to help you deal with your grief, your stress, and your responsibilities. Also, know that it is okay to rethink your arrangement with your mother. Your circumstances have changes dramatically since you sold your houses and made your plan. It would be perfectly reasonable to come up with a new plan – one that ensures your mother is cared for AND that your life is prioritized too.

  30. Dee Dee Reply

    I can finally put a pin in my constant reoccurring thoughts. I have just turned 18 but have been a caregiver for a majority of my life. The relationship with my mum is one I treasure and could never replace in any lifetime but I feel this guilt immensely when beginning to consider my future plans and my education to come soon. It is incredibly overwhelming and emotional to think about each day and causes me to feel fatigued a majority of the time. Thankfully I have a wonderful partner that has kept me optimistic through this and that I should not feel guilty for the things that I cannot control but, it seems easier said than done at times.
    This post resonates with me.

  31. Ruth Loram Reply

    Man, everyone here I feel you. I have almost all the ‘guilts’ listed. We sold our home, the home I planned to retire/die in 4 years ago to find a better fit to move my physically ailing mother with us. I had the BEST of intentions to take the BEST of care for her, but I own my own business, albeit, it’s a remote situation so I am home, but work 10-12 hours a day. I’m thankful my kids have all moved out so they don’t see the angry, unhappy person I’ve become. I resent leaving the home I loved. I am ashamed that my husband (an earthly angel) has to deal with my constant state of unhappiness…why? Because everyone else gets the pearl necklace, dangly earring, all dressed up and happy mom/grandmother. I get the crabby, complaining, and accusatory mom. I hate this living situation and felt guilty about it for the past 4 years, trying my best, giving up EVERYTHING I loved to help her and she is nothing but complaining and unhappy that I don’t do more. Today she had the nerve to tell me all she ever hears is that I have a meeting. Seriously? I have to listen to her on and on and on and on every day and I just sit quietly listening but in my head I am SCREAMING SHUT UP. I have hired a visitor to give her a weekly distraction, I’ve tried to do things for myself and insist on daily self care as I’ve developed health issues I must address besides working full time and caring for EVERYTHING in the home because my husband and I both work more than 8 hours a day. I feel we made the very WRONG decision to move her in with us because I’ve never been so unhappy, feel selfish for feeling unhappy and see all these posts on social media about missing their parents or feeling blessed to care for them….and while my heart was in the right place at the start, it’s no where near in the right place now. I’m wanting to find a different solution and don’t even care if it upsets her. What guilt does that fall under? I want to be able to take my life now that all my kids are grown and enjoy my time with my husband before it’s too late and feel trapped. I’m past guilt and just in a constant state of resentment. Of course, my mom has no clue except today when she laid into me about having to get to a meeting…I just didn’t go back down because I need space when I’m this angry. She is not senile, just physically disabled, so I’m not participating in these mind games from her. I’m not perfect….and I know I’m not, but I also know I’m the most helpful, giving person in this family but I’ve reached my limit and now want to be selfish and take care of ME. I’ve decided over the next year to find another living solution…cause I can’t stand not being happy one more year. Thanks for listening. I’m sure I’ll be berated in some circles….but have finally reached the ‘I don’t care’ part of my journey. A journey I wised I would have travelled differently from the outset. Time for a detour.

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry you are feeling so spent. It is perfectly okay to renegotiate a situation when it no longer works for you.

  32. Theresa Crout Reply

    Great article. I live in another state from my parents, and my mom has had a string of problems over the past two years, most recently the loss of her husband who battled dementia for years. My “should” is that I should move her in with me (this is what she wants) but I know it will strain my relationship with my husband and her. Hard as it has been, I have told her this. I also “should” move closer, but My husband and I do not want to live where they live. The guilt and anxiety is crushing me. It feels like problem after problem and nothing ever gets better. I want to disappear.

  33. Luz Reply

    This article and the forum is amazing. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone. My mom has hydrocephalia and we think she is early stages of dementia. She almost can’t walk without assistance and is now wearing disposable panties. I live 2hs away from her and I work a 9 to 6 job everyday. My brother lives in her town and we share duties, but I still end up burnt, tired and guilty.
    And even more guilty because I’m single and I live alone, so when I need time on my own to recharge or regain a bit of my social life I feel a little bit like a selfish monster.
    I will keep trying to diminish my guilt feelings.
    Thank you all so much.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *