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Multiple Roles: Handling the Guilt

By  Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW

(Page 2 of 3)

Adult children who feel guilt manifest this feeling by being complaining, offensive or accusatory, overprotective and either visit too often, or not often enough. They often also feel that unless they can return total care to their aging parent, they are not doing enough. This is especially true if there is only one adult child who has the full burden placed on them, or the one of the “bunch,” most often a daughter or the child who lives the closest geographically to the parent, who assumes the burden of care.

What can you do, then, to relieve the guilt that arises when you have all this demand on your time? When you realize that things are reaching a breaking point, arrange for a family meeting, which includes your aging parents, any siblings, your spouse or significant other and your children. You may want a professional involved to facilitate. Letting everyone know your feelings and that you are not able to juggle all the responsibilities anymore may help others to begin to share the load. It is important here to recognize that there are many instances where the main caregiver refuses to acknowledge that they can’t handle the load— they are too caught up in the daily grind that they don’t recognize the warning signals (extreme fatigue, lack of rest, irritability, frustration over lack of time, among others). A professional, outside perspective in this case would be beneficial to objectively point out the potential dangers of trying to do everything for everyone without a break.

Another tip is to negotiate from the start just exactly what the roles will be in terms of providing care for an older relative. Ask for and involve outside agency help in order to get occasional respite. If your parent is resistant in accepting outside help, demanding that you do the job, be FIRM in expressing that you have to look out for your own needs. If you don’t, you will eventually wear yourself down to the point where you are no longer effective as the main caregiver. You should not feel guilt in insisting that you take time out for yourself. Remember to follow through on your plan for getting respite relief—you deserve it! Also remember that the help you receive is competent and is able to handle emergency situations if they arise.


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