Our Caregiver Journey: Navigating Guilt and Growth

Samantha shares her personal story of caring for her mother-in-law with multiple health issues and the challenges and rewards of in-home care and the decision to place her in a nursing home

Our Caregiver Journey: Navigating Guilt and Growth
Caregiving is the most guilt producing role you will ever take on. 

Samantha's Story from Oregon

The intricacies of our relationship with my mother-in-law have always been a blend of fondness and frustration, a pattern of ups and downs. Residing in a small apartment while my husband and I lived a short distance away in a two-bedroom house, we made it a point to check on her daily, given her numerous health challenges.

As time unfolded, the reality emerged that a nursing home was becoming a necessity. The alternative was her moving in with us. We readied a room for her in our home, aware that tough days were ahead. She received visits from nurses, therapists, and home health aides, despite which, the journey remained demanding. Diabetes, kidney transplant, heart disease, and dementia comprised her health struggles, demanding a strict medication regimen and specialized diet. Convincing her to comply with these became a daily struggle. Caring for aging parents proved to be more intricate than I had imagined, though it had its rewarding moments.

Amidst the challenges, we unearthed stories of her childhood, her widely scattered family across the nation, and created a Person Centered Profile for her care. These intimate conversations illuminated a side of her we had never seen, and my husband rekindled memories from his childhood, now distant due to geographical distance.

The journey wasn't without its fears. I remember removing candles and matches when she nearly set our house ablaze. Vigilance in the kitchen became essential as she would start cooking and forget about it. Caregiver stress, once just words on a page, was now palpable. Our dilemma grew as she required round-the-clock supervision, not only to prevent accidents but to ensure her safety.

The tipping point arrived when she fell in the shower one night. My husband and I found her hours later, hospitalized her, and a social worker suggested that her needs might be better met in a nursing home. We grappled with guilt, a misplaced sentiment that overshadowed the care we provided. With heavy hearts, we made the decision to place her in a nursing home, selecting one conveniently close to us.

Over three years, we cared for her, a period that fostered family growth despite the trials. Placing her in a nursing home was both a blessing and a heartache. Our journey had expanded us as a family, but ultimately safety had to be our priority.

How to Use Caregiver Guilt to Your Advantage

Guilt, though natural, can be counterproductive. It's crucial to see that it can also propel you forward. Recognize your effort, and remember, self-care is paramount. If guilt overshadows your caregiving joy, consider consulting a mental health professional or joining support groups for fellow caregivers.

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    Overcoming guilt starts with forgiving yourself for errors and understanding that some things are beyond control. Each day, engage in something enjoyable—exercise, nature walks, reading, or virtual chats with friends. This rejuvenation will enhance your caregiving.

    Above all, accept that caregiver guilt is normal; embrace it. Acknowledge your emotions and channel them positively.

    Your contribution is commendable. Prioritize self-care to provide exceptional care. Use guilt as a reminder: self-care is crucial. You deserve it.

    Do you have caregiver guilt? Do you practice self care daily? Please share the challenges of your caregiving journey? Please share here. Help others realize that they are not alone. Submit Your Caregiver Story
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