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Caring for Aging Parents: Overcoming Caregiver Guilt, Reducing Stress

Posted by Robyn Huetter on Mar 13, 2019 3:02:00 PM

As you care for a senior family member, you may begin to notice you don’t feel as energetic as you once did. The added work and stress of caring for aging parents and even spouses begin to take a toll on you. As a caregiver, you may be trying to manage two households and deal with your loved ones’ issues while neglecting your own needs. Taking care of yourself may seem like a luxury, but in reality, it’s essential so that you can be at your best as you continue caring for your loved one.

How to Overcome Caregiver Guilt & Reduce Stress When Caring for Aging Parents

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How to Not Feel Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself

One of the biggest barriers to getting the care you need is the guilt you feel for focusing on yourself. To surmount this issue, look at the situation differently. Consider how taking an afternoon off to go to the spa or just to take a nap is really helping your loved one. If you aren’t at your best, you can’t provide the high level of care they need. You may make mistakes or not be as alert as the person requires. It’s much easier to take care of yourself when you see it as benefiting your senior family member.


From Personal Experience

Not long ago an acquaintance got a text saying the wife of a colleague had died. “You mean his mother-in-law, don’t you?” she texted back. Unfortunately, no. The colleague’s 55-year-old wife had suffered a brain aneurysm and died suddenly.

The reason for the confusion was understandable. The colleague’s wife, who had been a caregiver to her husband’s mother for many years, had recently taken her own ailing mother into her home.

While there are simply too many variables for medical science to see cause and effect between caregiving duties and this particular woman’s untimely death, long-term longitudinal studies have found that caregiver stress can have significant adverse health consequences.

A 2005 study from the University of Florida found that people who feel that they have a choice in whether or not to be a caregiver are far less likely to report stress and adverse health effects than those who do not feel they have a choice, be that from circumstantial or social pressure. Not surprisingly, those who feel they have no choice are most often family members of the person needing care.

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What to Do Before Becoming a Caregiver for a Parent

While the effects are more pronounced for reluctant caregivers, even caregivers-by-choice need to practice self-care. You wouldn’t start off on a sailing trip across the Pacific without a life preserver on board. In the same way, you shouldn’t embark on a caregiver journey, whether you are providing part-time care or full-time care, informal care or paid, without a specific plan to preserve your own health.

It’s never a good idea to push yourself beyond reasonable limits, but it’s particularly detrimental to go it alone when a loved one’s care needs are significant and ongoing, with no relief in sight.


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If you are at the point of being burned out already, you may consider the options available to you for Respite Care, Independent Living, or Assisted Living in Seattle.  Then, implement these following tips from the Mayo Clinic for dealing with caregiver guilt and stress.

How to Overcome Caregiver Guilt

  1. Accept help. If someone offers to help, be ready with a specific request for a set amount of time. For example, you might make a request such as “Do you think you could come sit with my mom on Tuesday from 2 to 4?” Accepting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. So be willing to receive offer to help with caring for elderly parents when they are extended.

  2. Focus on what you can provide, not what you can’t. There are many ways to provide support to your loved one, so don’t feel guilty for not “doing it all.” In fact, no one can. This is even more of a challenge when you are dealing with demanding and difficult elderly parents who may not even want help. Remember, your goal is to keep your loved one safe and cared for to the best of your ability.

    Related: Different Levels of Care Ensure Seniors Get the Care They Need in West Seattle

  3. Get connected. Organizations such as the Red Cross, the Alzheimer's Association, local hospitals or community colleges often offer classes on caregiving, nutrition, exercise and other topics that will aid you on the caretaking journey. There are an assortment of online resources and articles that can help answer your questions and make your daily life as a caregiver easier. Take a look at additional resources.

  4. Join a support group. Support groups are safe places to express yourself freely among people who really do understand what you are going through. They are also wonderful places to find support, encouragement and friendship. Look for a support group in Seattle.

There are plenty of strategies for avoiding caregiver burnout in the first place as well. By thinking ahead and implementing the following, you can prevent suffering from caregiver anger and resentment, guilt, and heartache as you are caring for your aging parents.


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How to Prevent Caregiver Anger & Resentment 

Plan Ahead

You can take time out for your own needs if you plan ahead. Schedule an hour or two or an entire afternoon to devote to yourself, and find someone else to check in or provide any needed care during that time. For example, you could take your parent to the home of a special friend or family member for the afternoon. You could then return home guilt-free to enjoy a nap or even catch up on much needed laundry or house cleaning.

If your siblings don’t help with your aging parents, and others you know are unavailable, you can look into options for respite care and other senior care options. This way you can be regularly implementing self care and have a good option for longer term care if you ever need to travel or transition away from being the day to day caregiver.


Do What You Need to Do

While it’s nice to enjoy an afternoon reading your favorite book or visiting friends, you may prefer to spend this coveted time doing something that will improve your hectic schedule or cross some more to do items off your list.

So often you hear well-meaning friends say that you shouldn’t work during your “me-time” or that this downtime should involve a favorite activity or hobby. But, everyone is different. If you’re overextended, like many caregivers, with your other responsibilities suffering from neglect, a few uninterrupted hours attending to those tasks may do wonders for your mental health and help offset some of the emotional effects of caring for an elderly parent.


Understand When It’s Time for a Change

When caregiving becomes too much, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one may be enlisting the services of an assisted living care facility. If you can no longer provide the level of care your parent needs and your relationship is being strained, it may be in their best interest and yours to find an alternative solution. You can then focus on being the adult child they love to spend time with instead of their sole caregiver.




Caring for a family member is a wonderful act of love, but it can also take a toll on your own mental and physical health. Caregiver stress is a real problem for many, but it can be difficult to recognize and treat. Here are some commonly asked questions about caregiving stress.


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Caregiver Stress: Signs & Strategies to Overcome

What are the signs of stress in caregivers?

While signs can vary in each person, many times stress is identified by certain characteristics. It often begins with feeling physical, mental or even emotional exhaustion. A caregiver feels lonely and isolated either because they can’t get out and have contact with friends or because they choose not to. In time, stress can lead to frustration and even anger at themselves, and resentment towards their loved one or other family and friends.


What causes caregiving stress?

You may think stress only happens with those who have a major responsibility for their loved one, such as feeding, bathing or grooming. You may also assume it happens when the elderly person is difficult, demanding, and hard to deal with or when the aging person has a severe condition, like Alzheimer’s.

The truth is, caregiving stress can occur even when you enjoy caring for your loved one and they are easygoing and pleasant to be with. Just having another person around and someone you must provide for and monitor can overload your schedule and mind enough to cause added stress.

The emotional effects of being a caregiver are heightened as oftentimes you being the process of grieving your loved one and the way you remember them being while you were growing up.


How to Reduce Caregiver Stress:

  1. Give yourself some grace.

    The first step is to identify it for what it is and determine what long-term changes need to be made. You may want to ask for help on a regular basis from other family members or even hire outside help. For some, it may be time to consider a different living situation in a facility like Daystar that will allow you to be part of your loved one’s life without managing the day-to-day responsibilities associated with their care. You can ease the transition in a number of ways to keep your loved one’s routine as close to normal as possible.

  2. Express what you are feeling.

    It’s also important to express your feelings, and talk to supportive people in your life about what you are going through as a caregiver. There is a technique called the “Feeling Letter” by Dr. John Gray, that can be adapted so you can process your emotions as a caregiver. The effectiveness of this technique comes from its structure that allows you to process the variety of emotions, like grief, sadness, anger, fear, and love in there different forms and come to a place where you can express what you hope your outcome to be.

  3. Implement caregiver self care.

    Make time for yourself to allow you to recharge for your caregiving duties. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your aging parents and the rest of your family. Release yourself from feeling like YOU always have to be the one caring for your aging parents. Enlist others to help you and give up tasks to others who can accomplish them.

  4. Seek alternative options.

    There are many different types of senior care that you can look into to alleviate caregiver stress. If finances are the cause of your stress, start by objectively comparing the costs of each care option to make your options more black and white. Depending on your loved one’s situation, you can also reach out to local agencies and find out if there are any financial assistance options through city, state, and non-governmental resources.


    What will it cost? Download Cost Comparison Worksheet
  5. Utilize convenience services.

    If you plan to continue in your role as caregiver for your elderly loved one, convenience and time saving services can help reduce your stress level. A lot of these services will save you time on a variety of levels and allow you to spend your limited time doing the items that truly only you can do. Some of these convenience services include:

    • Local meal delivery.

      Many restaurants offer food delivery either directly or through a third-party delivery service.

    • Grocery pick up.

      Larger grocery stores, and some smaller chains, offer online grocery shopping with the option to deliver straight to your door or have you simply come pick up your order.

    • Homemaker services for the elderly.

      Hire a part time homemaker to help you with meal planning and prep, washing dishes, light housekeeping (like vacuuming and dusting), laundry and linens, running errands, etc. To keep costs down, you may consider enlisting the help of a responsible high schooler or college student in your town to help you with these tasks for a couple hours per week.

    • Home health services.

      home health services renovations can also alleviate some of the work you have to do. You may need to make changes to your home, such as installing bathroom handrails to enable your loved one to be more independent.

    • Respite care.

      Also known as adult day care by some, respite care is planned or emergency temporary care provided to caregivers that gives you a much-needed break and allows you to run errands or take care of other responsibilities.

Realize that caregiving stress is a real condition that can occur to anyone in the role of caregiver. Seek out help, whether in the form of a temporary solution or a more permanent change like moving your loved one to an assisted living community in Seattle. And remember: you aren’t alone, and you must make decisions for your own good, as well.


Download Now: How to Emotionally Transition Your Parent Into Senior Living

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