Are you feeling guilty? The truth is that it is not uncommon for caregivers to experience some level of guilt, even when they know they have done all they can to support a sick or disabled loved one or client. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health, approximately 65% of adult daughters caring for their mothers expressed some level of guilt about their role as a caregiver. However, although it is natural to experience some guilt, feeling guilty all the time is not healthy; excessive guilt among caregivers has been linked to distress and can ultimately lead to burnout.

Forms of guilt: Do any of these sound familiar?

Guilt (among caregivers) is defined as a contradictory internal feeling resulting from thoughts about what one could have or should have done to support or care for a loved one. Caregivers commonly experience four types of guilt. Do any of these sound familiar?

You might be experiencingmoral guilt if you feel guilty about not being kind enough or about having had to say no, or if you feel as though you are not spending enough time with your loved one, even though you have been kind and are doing all that you can.

You might be experiencing survival guilt if you are constantly questioning why your loved had to be the one who is ill, or if he or she has passed, the guilt might be related to why he or she died.

You might be experiencing recovery guilt if you have the feeling of wanting to get on with life following the loss of a loved one but you are feeling guilty about moving forward. Recovery guilt is frequently experienced during the first year following a loss.

You might be experiencingcultural guilt if you are unable to express what may be deemed by others as the appropriate level of emotion and you feel guilty about not being able to express those emotions.

The truth is that most guilt does not stand up to reality testing. If you were to consider all that you are doing to care for your loved one, you would come to the conclusion that you are doing the best you can.

The Caregiver Wellness: U model

Distress impacts psychological wellness, which is a part of the Caregiver Wellness: U model, a conceptual model that incorporates the movement toward social, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and financial wellness, while also incorporating the empowerment and resilience necessary to take charge of one’s health on a holistic basis. The components are not chronological; rather, they are collective. According to the Caregiver Wellness: Umodel, being psychologically well means that a person has adequate coping skills to deal with the sometimes competing emotions associated with caring for a sick or disabled loved one or client.

Is the amount of guilt you are experiencing healthy?

Please take this opportunity to evaluate whether you might be feeling guilty. Following are five statements; consider each statement openly and honestly. Assign two points (2) if you agree with the statement and one point (1) if you somewhat agree, and do not assign any points (0) if you do not agree with the statement.

I feel morally obligated to care for my loved one.

I often feel as though I could be doing more to help my loved one.

I feel a constant sense of responsibility, and it never ends.

I usually feel guilty about feeling angry, frustrated, or annoyed.

I am reluctant to express my opinions, especially when they differ from those of my loved one or my family.

Evaluate your level of guilt score:

A score of 7 or highermay indicate that you might want to develop a plan to work through your guilt.

A score between 4 and 6may indicate that you are doing okay with managing guilt.

A score between 0 and 3may indicate that you experience a healthy amount of guilt.

Three tips for working through guilt

Practice making positive statements aloud. You do not have to wait for others to make positive statements about your level of commitment. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness and practice the art of self-preservation by appreciating your capabilities and what you do to assist your loved one or client. Remember that whatever you do to assist your loved one or client helps and displays your love and commitment.

Learn to accept positive feedback. When someone tells you that you are doing a good job, believe her. Don’t brush off positive feedback! Soak in positive feedback like you soak in sunlight. Take time to bask in positive feedback.

Separate your view of yourself from the views of others. More often than not, guilt arises because you attach your personal views to another’s view of who you are. Try not to fret about someone else’s view of you and your caregiving situation.

Guilt is a complex emotion. You will likely not relive all your feelings associated with guilt at once; it has taken time to develop your feelings, and it will likewise take time to let go of the guilt.