Caregiver Guilt

When caring for an elderly parent or family member, it’s quite normal to occasionally feel some level of caregiver guilt. It’s important to realize that we, being the caregiver, have certain expectations we feel we must meet when caring for our parents or in-laws. If additional family support is absent and we feel we are not meeting these expectations on our own, we begin to feel guilty. However, it’s also important to determine if these expectations are realistic. No one person can do all things perfectly at all times!

Questions to ask yourself as the caregiver when deciding if guilt is reasonable:
“Guilt can be God’s way of letting you know if you’ve violated a rule in your head and that you need to clean it up. Whose rule is this? Is this a rule that needs to be kept or can it be discarded? Is it still useful? What rule do you want to create to replace it? If you need to keep this rule, how can you clean it up?” (Tamara Suttle, M.Ed., LPC., 1/07).

It’s important to identify the feelings of caregiver guilt before they consume you. They can often mask other feelings that need to be identified. By naming these feelings, their consuming power over your life will be diminished. Once these feelings are identified, they can be dealt with more effectively by taking some sort of action, such as taking these feelings to God and/or to a support group who understands, or doing something constructive to clean up the situation.

When dealing with caregiver guilt, it’s important to separate the “musts,” “shoulds,” and “have to’s” of our expectations. These words are victimizing words. Instead, decide to replace these words with “I choose.” This phrase is much more empowering. You are in control of your choices, be they positive or negative choices. By taking responsibility for your choices rather than succumbing to the victim role, you will allow yourself to grow and change in a positive direction. This will also alleviate unnecessary guilt and show you where you may need to improve.


  • References

    Gibson, Hilary. Obtained 1/18/07. Keeping Your Balance.

    Rackner, Dr. Vicki. 6/24/06. Obtained 1/18/07. Managing Caregiver Guilt: 5tips To
    Manage Guilt So Guilt Serves You, Not Imprisons You.

    Suttle, Tamara, M.Ed., LPC,NBCCH. Discussion during supervision of Lorna Adams,
    RN, MA Psychotherapist January 2007.


About The Author

By: Lorna Adams

Compassion Therapy is a counseling resource for those coping in a caregiver situation. Please visit for information on our caregiver support group located in the Denver area. Also, visit my main website at for information on my individual practice counseling services.

Lorna Adams, MA, LPC, NCC Licensed Professional Counselor

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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