Dealing With Caregiver Guilt (Tips From Caregivers, For Caregivers)

Caregiving can be hard. Really hard. In fact, a 2021 survey by the national movement ARCHANGELS found that 44 percent of caregivers using CaringBridge rated themselves as “super-stressed.”

Part of this stress can come from the emotional aspect of caregiving–feelings of guilt can creep up when you least expect them to. You may feel as if you’re not doing enough for your loved one. You may feel guilty for considering placing your loved one into a care facility. Or, you may feel guilt after your loved one has passed away.

Caregiver guilt is completely normal. And, at the end of the day, it’s an emotion that highlights just how much you care. If you’re experiencing guilt, please know that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone in this. We’ve gathered some tips from real caregivers to help you cope and move forward.

1. Take Some Time for Self-Care

In the hustle and bustle of caregiving, it’s easy to neglect yourself. You know what they say, though—you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Take some time for yourself in the midst of your responsibilities. Self-care means different things for everyone. At its simplest, it can mean getting enough sleep at night and taking naps when you need them. It can also mean taking time for activities like reading, or yoga. If so, carve out a couple of hours to dig into a new book or visit your yoga studio. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve compiled ways, some simple and some a bit more involved, to incorporate self-care into your life.

Sometimes, you may feel like you don’t have one second for anything else in your day, or the energy to do these things even if you did. But self-care doesn’t have to mean taking a whole spa day. Instead, it can simply mean taking five minutes to stretch or sip your coffee on the front porch. The important thing is being intentional and doing something just for you.

Self-care can also mean understanding your emotions and honoring them. If your guilt feels too heavy or if you’re experiencing burnout, consider asking a friend or family member to step into your role for a day or two so you can take a much-deserved break. 

For some caregivers, this is unfortunately not an option. But organizations like the nonprofit Family Caregiver Alliance offer state directories of licensed respite-care options.

2. Join a Support Group

Sometimes, being a caregiver can feel a bit lonely. You may feel as if your friends or family just don’t understand how you feel. Joining a support group can help you connect with like-minded individuals who may be struggling with caregiver guilt too.

“Join a support group. Priceless.”

Kazia R.

To find support groups in your area, you can do a quick Google search (or check out our roundup on caregiver support groups). Or, you can also join online caregiving support groups via social media platforms like Facebook.

3. Let it All Out

Eventually, bottled up emotions have to go somewhere. Take some time to yourself to just let it all out. If you feel the need to cry, cry. If you want to write out your feelings, write them out. If you need to pray, pray. If you need to call a friend to vent, do it.

In these times, it may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist who can give you the tools you need to cope. There are many options available today, depending on your needs. For example, you could try online talk therapy or do a search for therapists in your area.

“Find a quiet place just for you if it’s only for 5 minutes. It’s alright to cry, it will relieve your tension. Learn how to release your stress, even if it’s only singing. Have a relishing with God and ask him to give you strength and courage to face everything. Believe me it helps.”

Doris B.

4. Give Yourself Some Grace

Woman embracing man
Pictured are Bernie and Leslie Goldblatt, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

How you feel in this moment is just as important as how your loved one feels. Your wellness is a priority, too. 

“What you feel, no matter what it is, is valid. You need to realize that your feelings are just as important.”

Erica M.

The work you’re doing makes you a hero–even when it doesn’t feel like it–so consider giving yourself credit for all your hard work. Even when guilt arises, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing something incredible for your loved one.

“I have been a caregiver several times over. You are there when most are not. You are their hero.”

Jo J.

Take some time today to consider just how amazing you are. If you need to, write some encouraging quotes on sticky notes and place them around your home or in your car. Whatever it takes to remind you that you matter, both inside your role as caregiver and outside of it.

What’s Your Story?

If you’re a caregiver, how do you cope with feelings of guilt or remorse? If you feel comfortable, consider sharing your stories and ideas in the comments below. You may just inspire someone to keep going through the heavy emotions of caregiving.

Don’t Go Through Your Health Journey Alone

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

  • Anonymous

    OK so, this is hard. The spiritual stuff is not for me. I also feel like a lot of cliches get tossed around on the subject. My situation is just that…mine. As is everyone else’s. While there are similarities, all of us are dealing with our own unique set of circumstances.
    A lot of the time I can’t even distinguish between my own feelings. Guilt, frustration, anger, resentment, exhaustion, depression, stress…they all just kind of blend together and cover me to the point where I literally feel the weight of it all and I don’t know how I remain standing.
    For me there’s no silver linings. I watched my grandmother’s health decline while she cared for her husband in the final years of his life. I don’t want to end up like she did. Broken to the point that she needed caretaking. I feel like I’m on the fast track myself and honestly, I want out.
    So how does one convey that to family and friends?
    Knowing that if I do, one of my children will insist on taking on the burden in my place. Feeling that everyone will think so much less of me for feeling the way I do.
    I doubt this even makes sense to anyone.

  • Denise Groves

    Excellent advice & encouragement. I forwarded this to several caregivers I know. 💕

  • Denise Palmer

    I am a caregiver in someone else’s home during the day and it may be hard, but is very rewarding to give my client’s the help and a good ear to listen and learn about their lives. The hard part is watching them pass when it is time. Watching the decline happen. Being there to listen during that time and to actually be soft in your tone of voice and be a person that actually takes on the roll of letting the family members take a break and get the self care they need is really important. It is important to realize that the comfort of the person is important in their journey through whatever they are going through. Redirect when you want them to do something instead of being mean about it. I love what I do and I do it well!

  • Dee Dosch

    I am retired and have been a full time caregiver to my husband for the past 5years. I let my self get run down so had to take a break. I just returned from spending a week with a nurse friend who worked on a memory care unit before she retired. It was wonderful to be able to talk to someone who understood my situation. Fortunately for me, my husband’s extended family was able to help out while I was gone. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself so you don’t get super stressed.

  • Joyce Hogue

    How do you take care of a Huntington’s patient who is aggressive at times and will only do what they want to do. This is very stressful for me because she won’t do what I ask her to do. I have to hold on to her to keep her from falling and doesn’t like that and refuses a wheelchair or walker. This person is my daughter.

  • Liza Lara

    Thank you for the free literature for caregivers❤️

  • Kay jones

    Thank you for the services you offer.

  • Kay jones

    Thank you Caring Bridge for your services.

  • Patricia Parker-Lennon

    I along with 5 of my sisters cared for my mother while she was battling stomach cancer. We took turns staying over night with her. She had regular nurses during the day but we were still there singing songs and bringing up funny happenings over the years growing up together. My dad had already passed at the young age of 59 so she only had us and once in a while our 3 brothers would come over for a visit but as horrible as it was to know that she was dying, there was something so beautiful about our presence with her and we would often wonder who would be the “lucky” one( that’s what I called it) to be with her when she took her last breath and I had gone home to shower and go back to her but unfortunately it was too late for me but our sister Janet was the “lucky” one to hold her hand as she went to be with Jesus and my dad💟💔✝️ The Parker family