How caregivers can let go of the burden of guilt Senior living: A guilt-free way to get your life back

How caregivers can let go of the burden of guilt Senior living: A guilt-free way to get your life back


You’ve always been a woman of your word. So, when you told your mother you’d take care of her when she grew old, you meant it.

But, now, your words are coming back to haunt you.

If truth be told, back then you had no idea how fragile your mother would become or how much support she would need. Or that looking after your mother’s house, health and finances, would cut into your own health, career and family life so much.

Before your own life unravels something’s got to change. And luckily, amazingly, you’ve hit upon an answer you both can agree on–namely, moving your mom to a senor living community.

There’s just one problem. Instead of feeling relieved, you feel twisted inside after listening the self-critical voices that are screaming: You didn’t do enough. You’re letting her down. You’re asking Mom to leave her home, make new friends and trust new caregivers, when she’s at her most vulnerable.

If this is where you’re heading, put a brake to the self-condemnation now.

Guilt helps neither you nor your mother, and the consequences of indulging in it can be devastating to your health and your life. (For starters, studies have found that feeling guilty can lead to a decline in concentration, productivity, creativity, and efficiency, according to this article from psychologist Guy Winch in Psychology Today.)

So, how can you rid yourself of guilt?

There’s no magic solution to absolving yourself of guilt, but a good start is to recognize that you are only human. Try to forgive yourself for your imperfections. And, as the Family Caregiver Alliance advises, consider changing guilt into regret. For instance, reword “I feel guilty over my impatience” to “I regret that I am impatient sometimes, like all human beings.” Remember that providing elder care is such a demanding, complex job, Mother Theresa herself could not do it perfectly.

It also helps to know that you are not alone. Try talking about your feelings with supportive friends or book a session with a counsellor. Attending an online or in-person caregivers support group can also provide huge relief as it allows you to talk with people who understand and empathize with your situation. (Check out the Family Caregiver Alliance’s Caregiver Connect page, which provides links to support groups as well as caregiver stories.)

You can also counter guilt by taking actions that boost your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Try walking in a park, taking an aerobics class or practicing yoga poses. Other activities include meditating in the morning or journaling about troubling feelings like guilt or fear.

Focus on the positive

As well, it’s crucial to remember the many benefits that a move to senior living will bring. For starters, think of all the social contacts your mom will make (which can especially boost her spirit if she has lost a partner) and the many activities she can enjoy on-site. Not only that, at a community, like those offered by Sunshine Retirement Living, you can rest assured that your mother will receive three nutritious meals each day plus round-the-clock individualized care, if needed. To top it off, she (and you) will no longer have to deal with home maintenance, and time will be freed up that you can devote to your much-neglected family and career.

What’s more, at Sunshine Retirement Living, you can get involved at your mother’s community, an enjoyable way to support her and to see for yourself the advantages of independent and assisted living. You could help with daily activities like museum trips, art classes and exercise programs or you could share your special skills or knowledge with residents at a special workshop.

Furthermore, whether your mom plans to move to independent living or assisted living, Sunshine’s “Easy Move Program,” provides advice on downsizing, moving companies, even loan applications. Additionally, the community’s move-in coordinator will ensure your mother knows where the dining room, activity room, movie theater and other community amenities are located and has everything she needs to feel at home. The community’s resident ambassador will also make sure she has a special place to sit with other welcoming residents in the dining room for her first week.

No one’s saying senior living will erase all your ugly emotions, but if you give it time, you and your mom may be surprised at how sweet the transition can be.

About the Author

Katherine O’Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.