How to Handle Feelings of Guilt when Caring for Elderly

Feelings of GuiltWhen caring for elderly, or facing family situations, do you feel guilty?

When caring for the elderly, there are times we feel inadequate to meet mounting needs and a feeling of guilt sets in. If not handled properly, this feeling will gnaw at us until it finds expression—usually in harsh words, anger or silence. Is this feeling normal? What should we do about it?

My elderly mother deserved the best of care and I was determined she would have it. At the time, I had health and energy to care for her physical needs. I had friends who helped on occasion so I could rest. I had the mental ability and experience to handle her financial needs and record keeping.   

We can never fix every problem; we must accept natural changes.

I could not, however, fix her feelings of losing her freedoms, her lack of mobility, or her fears concerning the future. I was not prepared to watch her deteriorate while in my constant care; I felt guilty that I could not do more, and I felt so alone.

Perhaps what I learned on my journey will be helpful in whatever situation you may be facing today.

1 Recognize your feelings are normal. 

The guilt will continue to pile up as long as you are afraid to be honest with others about how things are going for you. We learn to express our love in doing for others; when we feel our “doing” is not enough, we will naturally feel guilty for not having met more needs.

2 Realize you are not the only one with that feeling of guilt.

It helped me greatly to read others’ accounts of how they dealt daily with situations not unlike my own. One of the greatest websites I know to read others’ stories and get perspective is

3 Keep a journal for a week or two.

Be sure to jot down your feelings and what you were doing at the time you began to feel guilty. You will probably find that you are doing all that you can for your loved one with the time and resources available to you.

4. Deal with problems as they occur.

Are you personally doing all you know how to do? Is there a better solution to what is bothering you? Do you need more help in some area? Do you need to learn how to do some things better? Identify the specific problem, fix it, and move on.

5. Realize you are mere human; not super-woman.

If you do not find any specific area to fix (see question #4), then the underlying cause of your frequent feelings of guilt may simply be lack of rest and sleep. Often those feelings occur when we become overly tired and burnt out. You are only human, not super-woman. Allow yourself time to rest, time to cry, time to get in touch with reality.

6. Forgive yourself.

Not all guilty feelings are superficial; we do make mistakes. I did not always do things the best way for Mother or for the rest of the household. Forgiving ourselves is difficult, but necessary for freedom from guilt.

Above all, spend time with the One who gives us rest and peace and calms our storms.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”


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Family Caregivers Prepare for Unexpected Emergencies

preparing for unexpected emergencies

Family caregivers must prepare for unexpected emergencies. Is your family prepared?  

If unexpected emergencies occur while you are away from home; a caregiver or family member may have to make decisions quickly concerning your loved one. After being unable to reach you, and calling 911, what will happen next? If the patient is unable to communicate due to dementia or Alzheimer’s or other issues, how will others know vital information?

If you are not immediately available, who will have needed information?

Where will the client be taken? Does the one in charge know her physician’s name? Her medicines? Her allergies? Where to find you?

While caring for Mother, agencies would often send caregivers in who did not know us. Even family and friends who helped may not have automatically known the answers to the above questions. Most would not know her full name or her physician’s name.

One simple card solves a multitude of problems.

Early in Mother’s care, I neatly printed her personal information on a small card to be given to ambulance or emergency room personnel or others caring for Mother. Perhaps I went overboard, but I taped copies of the card to the wall in every room in the house including bathrooms and kitchen. A larger, more prominent copy was posted in her room and by the front door.

Here are what I believe to be important items to include on such a card:

• The person’s legal name
• Address where person lives
• Relationship and names of others living in the home
• The person’s birth date
• Physician’s name
• Hospital of choice
• List of all medicines & supplements
• List of any known allergies
• Abilities or disabilities

For our situation, I also listed our vehicles and license plates as well as where I thought we might be found during the day. This was to help in case a patrolman needed to find us in the event the phones didn’t work.

I realize these types of lists depend upon the patient, the circumstances, the area you live in, and other factors. For me, this list gave me great peace of mind and was actually helpful to me on those several occasions when we had to call an ambulance to take Mother to the hospital.

We all care for others in one way or another.

Why not look at your family and consider a list like this for each of them? Maybe in the glove compartment of your car and by your telephone, and be prepared in the event of an emergency.


P.S. Learn more from my memoir of eight years of caregiving in MY MOTHER MY CHILD. The 2nd edition includes a study guide at the end of each chapter making it a meaningful gift item for those you love.