“Living Guilt Free” – notes from one-hour talk

CaregiverTeleconnection is a service offered by WellMed, a charity based in San Antonio.  These are one-hour conference calls on topics of interest to caregivers and family members.  You can find information on these conference calls at caregiverteleconnection.org.

In late April 2017, one of the audio talks featured Lucy Barylak, a social worker.  Her topic was why we feel guilty as caregivers and how we can live guilt free.  Constant guilty feelings increase anxiety and stress, contribute to caregiver burnout, and can lead to clinical depression.

Brain Support Network volunteer Denise Dagan listened to the talk and took some notes.  See below.




Living Guilt Free with Lucy Barylak, MSW
April 26, 2017

Guilt comes from our families value systems.  We feel guilty when we feel we have done something we shouldn’t have done, or haven’t done something that we should have.

It also has to do with your own self-esteem, especially due to messages from our parents during our childhood.
– If you have low self esteem you may tend to rehash situations and feel guilty
– If you have good self esteem, you are usually better able to let the situation go and accept that, either
— you have done the best you can, or
— you know to do something differently next time.

Constant guilty feelings increase anxiety and stress, contribute to caregiver burnout, and can lead to clinical depression.

Caregivers shoulder much responsibility.  Their time and energy is stretched in several directions.
Feelings of guilt can be due to:
– not having the energy to help when a reasonable request is made of you.
– not having the patience to calmly manage the demands of caregiving and losing your temper.
Try to recognize your negative response to these situations mean you are being stretched too thin.

The remedy is to:
– Learn that it is okay to say no to demands before you become stressed out, and to
– Reach out and engage some help with either your household chores or caregiving duties.
In order to welcome help into your situation, allow for differences in how tasks are performed from the way you do things.

Sometimes, caregivers feel guilty about having an enjoyable experience because their ill family member can no longer participate in the same enjoyable activities they used to be able to.  It is important to let that thinking go, because caregiver respite is important for your physical and mental health.  If the primary caregiver’s health declines, care of the care recipient will suffer.

Placement in a facility is a huge guilt-inducing issue for caregivers.  To avoid guilt over this issue:
– Talk with the care recipient about this possibility well before the need for placement is at hand.
– Engage the care recipient in the decision about when and where to move to a facility, as much as possible.
– Stop and review your value system before making the decision. Usually, placing someone isn’t until caring for them at home has become too much of a burden, physically, financially, or both.  It is not the first course of action and usually occurs after many years of family caregiving.  As long as you have considered all your options and the care recipient has good care, set aside guilt over having to place someone in a facility.

A teleconference participant says she feels guilty not visiting her Mother every day, now that she has been placed in a facility, but she works long hours and has young children so visiting is a burden.  As normal as these feelings are, it is not a realistic expectation to be able to continue visiting every day given the other demands on her time for as long as her mother will live. She needs to put some faith in the staff at the nursing home and communication in place with them to get the information she needs to know her mother has good care without turning up in person every day.

When you feel guilty, stop and do a bit of self evaluation as to what are your value systems and why do you feel guilty about the current situation.

The speaker told a story about caring for her mother.  When her mother began to need insulin injections a nurse began to instruct the speaker in how to do the injections.  The speaker declined to learn because of the demands already on her time and her queasiness over needles.  She did not feel guilty because she knew her limitations.  The nurse found someone else to provide this service, and the speaker realized it is fine to set reasonable limits.  Those making demands on you WILL find another way to accomplish what needs doing if YOU are not the one doing it.  You are simply the most convenient person to ask, but you are not the only option.

A very difficult situation is when you are caring for someone with whom you do not have a good relationship, the guilt (anger, helplessness, resentment, etc.) can kick in so you are not behaving as your best self by having a short temper, etc.  You may want to seek counseling for assistance in dealing with these feelings if you must remain in the situation.

With respect to judging other people’s choices.  They are not heartless.  They have a different value system from you.