When we are called selfless, and tireless; when people talk about our sacrifice; when we do a Google images search for eldercare and this is what we see:(behold the chokehold!), we think all other caregivers must be perfect.
Clearly, every other caregiver goes about their busy and overwhelming day full of love and smiles and grace and pixie dust.
But not us. Oh no. We are actually, and secretly, thinking bad thoughts. Selfish thoughts. Evil, evil thoughts like:
- Why me?
- I can’t take much more of this.
- What is taking him/her so long?
- I would just like some time to myself.
- Just once I’d like to spend time with my kids and not have to include my mother/father/great aunt Ellie.
- Omigod is that poop? I can’t handle poop!
- I want my life back.
We feel guilty. We feel ashamed. Because we think no one else thinks like we do. No one else feels like we do. All those other caregivers are good people. But not us!
We all think and feel that way sometimes. Some of us feel that way a lot. Like a lot a lot. These feelings are normal. The images above are not. It is normal to be frustrated, tired, and grouchy sometimes when we are balancing eldercare, childcare, jobs, errands, our own health, etc., etc., etc. We are human after all, aren’t we?
These thoughts are normal and they are not that important. What is important are our actions. We may think all of the above, but what do we do? We keep on caring. We administer meds and love and we cancel work meetings for our parents’ doctors appointments. Day after day and week after week, we care. Our thoughts are just thoughts. It’s what we do that counts. And what we do, is care!
So, the next time you think you are the only bad caregiver out there, follow this three point plan for managing caregiver guilt:
- Acknowledge what you do, not what you think. Really acknowledge it – say it out loud, give yourself a pat on the back, treat yourself to a manicure or a fun, cheap necklace.
- Do NOT share your feelings with the person you care for. No good will come of that.
- DO share your feelings with other caregivers. If we tell each other the truth, we won’t feel so alone.
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