© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Having assisted carers for close to 35 years, I am familiar with the swell of emotions involved in outsourcing the care of a loved one.
The guilt swirls with circular questions: Are you giving up? Where is your staying power? What of your promise "in sickness and in health"?
An open and honest display of these emotions was generously shared by Anne Tudor in "Mr Velvet Ears", a documentary profiled in one of my blogs on Anne's journey of moving her partner of 35 years into residential care.
Feeling guilt is part of every carer's journey. It is normal.
As a carer, you need to accept that you will feel guilt. It may haunt you every day or come in waves. But in the end, it is unhelpful and drains you of precious energy.
The Guilt May Be Mutual
Before I list some ways of handling guilt, I would like to make the point that your loved one, in your care, is a person too. It is possible that they too feel guilty about being a "burden" to you and the effect it is having on your life.
They want you to look after yourself. They do not want or expect you to become a selfless servant.
In truth, they want you to remain their partner, not their carer.
And, if you do not take care of your own health and wellbeing, you won't be able to care for anyone in the long term.
Help For When You Feel Guilt As A Carer
There are some ways to bring balance to your emotions.
Don't deny your feelings of guilt, and accept that the guilt may go deeper than just the giving your time. For example, you may be constantly comparing your situation with others and feel resentment for how the health of your loved one has impacted your life. Shed the tears and talk about it. This will help you let go of the pain.
Let family members and friends know how you are managing and ask them for support and help. It is okay to ask for help.
If you do not wish to call on family and friends, talk to other carers. They will be familiar with what you are going through and may suggest solutions.
Speak to your GP. They may be able to refer you to a local counsellor or provide information about local carer support groups.
Another source of help is the Carer Gateway. Launched in late 2015, this Commonwealth Government initiative provides carers with: information and advice; referral to supports; free telephone counselling; free coaching; and an online discussion forum.
Be kind to yourself. Accept that you have a difficult job and you are doing the best that you can. Be realistic as to what you can achieve in a day and a week.
Organise a break from caring and do what you enjoy. Short-term in home respite or residential respite, funded by the Commonwealth Government's My Aged Care, can be arranged. Otherwise, call on a family member, friend or neighbour to spend a couple of hours with your loved one while you take a break.
Ultimately, I recommend formalising more regular breaks by building a care support team and putting in place a structured weekly care plan. This will give you peace of mind that your loved one is being well cared for while you are not there. It will relieve you of the heavy onus of taking on all the care yourself. And I feel sure that your loved one will feel relieved that burden of their health on your life has lightened.
Seeking more information as a carer? Refer to my prior blogs:
- Taking a break while looking after a loved one with dementia.
Need help building a care support team?
If you need help building a care support team and putting place structured quality care, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
DR Care Solutions offers expertise on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.