Why do I feel guilty….caregiver guilt?

You became a caregiver to give your loved-one unconditional love, support, and quality care within the comforts of home.  Your daily devotion enables them to live a more meaningful, joyful life.  You absorb ALL of the stress from the current complex situation.  The mental and physical exhaustion is depleting your own health, but you still smile.  Socializing is limited, but isolation is in surplus.  Why do caregivers expose themselves to such a stressful, unpredictable environment?  We care about the welfare of others and believe our participation in their lives will create nurturing relationships.  We give hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.  Providing an ailing loved-one with a fulfilled life is rewarding, but do we care too much?  Is there such a thing as caring too much?

We caregivers have very nurturing, caring, independent mentalities.  These mind-sets wreak havoc on our health and create unsatisfactory care environments.  Caregiving is mentally and physically draining. Most of us have suffered from caregiver stress and burnout.  It’s an emotional roller-coaster!  What emotions surface while caregiving?  Anger, sorrow, happiness, love, fear, and surprise are just a few emotions encountered by caregivers. The most mentally exhausting emotion during my caregiving journey was guilt.  I was devoting my life to the happiness and well-being of a loved-one.  Why did I feel guilty?

After her second stroke, my grandmother received all nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.  She couldn’t eat or drink by mouth, only via peg-tube.  How could I possibly eat anything in front of this wonderful lady?  I felt guilty eating because she wasn’t able to indulge in the foods she once found so delicious.  I ate many meals at the kitchen counter, in a location not visible to her baby blue eyes.

My grandmother was left bed-bound after suffering two strokes between the ages of 73-78.  She was unable to eat, stand, or complete any daily tasks. She was completely dependent on me….for EVERYTHING.  This once independent woman was now dependent on an 18 year old!  The irony, in previous years I was her dependent!  Again, guilt surfaces and shows its ugly face.  My mind is overwhelmed with WHY, WHY, WHY?

  • Why did this healthy woman have multiple strokes? 
  • Why is this master of culinary arts unable to eat the food she loves?
  • Why did this kind, sweet, and giving lady get such a “raw deal” in life?

I felt guilty because I was healthy.

Heart failure ended my grandmother’s life.  As a caregiver for an elderly loved-one, I knew my responsibilities would end, but not exactly when or how.  It’s frightening trying to be prepared for the unexpected.  When she passed I was overwhelmed with guilt. Again, my mind was flooded with questions. 

  • What did I do wrong?  She was fine last night when I put her into bed.
  • Could I have prevented this?
  • Maybe I should have done this instead of that?
  • Did I overlook some detail that caused this?
  • Did my grandmom die because of something I did or missed?

Caregiver guilt exists during and after caregiving.  Because of faithful devotion to helping others, we caregivers create an unhealthy emotional environment for ourselves.  We can’t accept certain terms and outcomes.  Our mind is geared for success not failure.  Please share this post to prepare other caregivers for their emotional but rewarding journey.  Thank you and good luck! 

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Published by

ThePineyChemist

I'm just your average thirty-something woman, living in Small Town, USA. I graduated college with a B.S. Degree in Chemistry in 2008. While pursuing my passion for Chemistry, my life took an unexpected turn and I became my grandmother's 24-hour caregiver....for 11 years. During this time, I married and became a very independent woman. The Piney Chemist combines my love of Chemistry with eventful life experiences. It's Chemistry, caregiving, and me!

16 thoughts on “Why do I feel guilty….caregiver guilt?”

  1. Hi! I just wanted to say that I went through the same guilt when my 5 month old baby died. Now when you read my posts, I’m talking about the nursing home I am at, but when my baby died, she was my fifth child. She was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart problem. This baby was always with blue around her lips and cheeks. We all loved her so much. With four other children I began to tire out. I now had two girls to take to the cardiologist, and three that just wanted Mama’s attention. My energy was sapped. Then, a week before she turned five months, this baby died. I asked myself the same questions you asked yourself. I can see you had no choice. After 35 years of questioning my integrity, God has taught me that guilt is dangerous. We can only do so much. And I believe we both did our best before Jesus, and that’s what counts. Of course, Jesus is never as hard on us as we are on ourselves. Jesus practices mercy, just like we did for our loved ones.

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    1. Hi! I’m sorry for the loss of your baby. I can’t imagine the emotions that flooded your body. Dealing with the death of a child and still having the focus to raise four others….you’re truly an incredible person. You have a strong will and that should be appreciated. Thank you so much for commenting. You’ve given me a lot of sound advice.

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      1. I think I meant that caregiverr’s guilt is based in part on feelings of you being healthy while a loved one has to suffer—a kind of wishful self sacrifice on your part. It also may be encouraged–so to speak–by the suffering one’s self pity expressed as a kind of envy for whatever the healthy partner supposedly can still do. Not the whole answer, but what I can think of right now. 🙂

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      2. Ok, now I understand. The guilt I’ve experienced is what you described as feelings of being healthy while a loved-one suffers. I’ve never dealt with your second description (I don’t think I have)….suffering one’s self pity….but it gives me a different perspective. Hmmm….

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  2. My mom and I were having a similar conversation to this the other day. We were talking about why bad things happen to good people – I’m not sure anyone actually deserves anything in this life, but good people who get sick and experience things like you have described here certainly shouldn’t be exposed to that when there are plenty of bad people in this world who live long, healthy lives. But we have faith in the good people of this world, and if she was able to, I would be willing to bet your grandmother would say she counted her lucky stars to have you looking after her. Family is everything where I come from, and I have nothing but respect for the devotion you showed your grandmother. I would certainly say you should hold your head high and feel zero guilt when you think back on your memories of the time you two shared together…if we’re ever in a similar situation later in life, hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have someone like you looking after us too.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words!! Yes, I often ask myself that same question, “Why do good people have to suffer?” I understand everything happens for a reason, BUT I will never fully understand the reasoning behind good and suffering. It seems we have similar family backgrounds. Yes, family is everything! If you can’t look back on life and know you’ve done everything to help and care for family, are you really accomplished? That’s only my opinion. I appreciate your positivity with my caregiving experience. It was a struggle, but the memories made were worth it. Hopefully, as WE slip into antiquity, we will have someone to care for us and share our enthusiasm for family!! Lol Thank you for a great response!

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  3. I used to feel guilty whenever I grumbled about something trivial. I would see my mom-in-law suffering from schizophrenia, my hubby suffering from Bi-Polar and here was I, complaining about a headache, or being lonely. So, yes, I can understand how you must feel. However, over the years, I have realised that sometimes we think a bit too much. We over-think things that are not in our control. We don’t realise how much we are already doing for our loved ones and only focus on that what’s going wrong with them and blame ourselves for it all.
    You have done your best for your granny and I am sure she must be blessing you and sending you all her love from up there. Doing your best was in your control and you did it, wonderfully. So, please stop feeling guilty. it will add unnecessary stress to your Life which you really don’t need!
    I hope I haven’t offended you, or something, have I?
    Take care, PC! And, be happy! We are all doing our best and must be proud of ourselves, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words! No offense taken!! I couldn’t agree more….unnecessary stress adds “fuel to the fire!” I’m learning to reflect on my past experiences with a more positive mentality. I don’t enjoy dwelling on the past, but want others to understand caregiver guilt does exist. It’s another emotion included in caregiving’s emotional rollercoaster. Yes, be happy and enjoy the here and now! Appreciate yourself and others! Thank you for your heartfelt response! Take care!

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