Guilt is a common emotion experienced by family caregivers who are providing at least some care for a senior who’s independently aging in place at home, usually their parent. Those feelings tend to intensify when that caregiver lives far away from their elderly loved one, a condition referred to as “remote caregiver guilt”.
Caregiving industry experts have found that roughly 15% of all caregivers live one or more hours away from the senior they’re assisting. That makes it nearly impossible for them to be at their loved one’s side more than once or twice a week, or even less. As a result, many experience ongoing guilt, which can cause health problems like stress, fatigue and depression. The good news is that there are some practical ways to battle remote caregiver guilt. Here are 5 of the better ones.
1. Know Your Limitations
Most family caregivers feel like they could be doing more to improve their loved one’s health and wellbeing. If you currently struggle with those thoughts, you’re not alone as millions of others also experience similar feelings of inadequacy. Identifying and coming to terms with your limitations and effectively managing your time when caring for your loved one will help you stay strong and energized to be there when it’s needed most. Get in touch with your negative feelings, process them, and then let them go. For example, if you can’t physically be at their house, show your love and support in other ways like a phone call, on social media or through email.
2. Develop Selective Hearing
Sometimes the one you’re providing care for, like an elderly mom or dad, can say hurtful things that can exacerbate guilt, like: “Why did you move so far away. Don’t you love me?”. And, as a person ages they can be more and more demanding, notably when they have cognitive impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s . In any event, it’s wise to develop “selective hearing” to tune the negative noise out. Avoid getting into confrontations with them, but instead listen, show love, and then try to redirect the conversation to a more positive topic.
3. Encourage Their Independence
Many older Americans spend too much time alone watching TV. Even from a distance, you can encourage your parent to be more active and independent, even if they can’t drive anymore or have limited physical mobility. In a loving way, speak to them about getting involved in local activities that will get them out of the house and engaged with others. For example, they could:
- Learn a new hobby by taking a class.
- Join a nearby senior center to make new friends.
- Take advantage of free senior transportation in their community.
- If they have a serious medical condition like cancer or arthritis, encourage them to join a local support group.
- Volunteer in the community, for example at a church, school, hospital, or cancer center.
4. Support Your Sibling Caregiver
Remote caregiver guilt is oftentimes caused by the fact one adult child is doing the lion’s share of the work, and the far-away sibling then feels like they’ve failed both. And, the caregiver may feel resentful towards the sibling that’s “not there” for mom or dad, creating deep emotional wounds that take years to heal. If you live out-of-state, support the primary caregiver with words of encouragement, your heartfelt gratitude, and also offer to financially support their efforts. Don’t let guilt keep you from supporting your sibling’s much-appreciated efforts.
5. Seek Non-Family Assistance
Another way to help alleviate guilt is to call upon the caregiving assistance of others you can trust that live near your aging loved one. For example, consider reaching out to:
- Their friends or neighbors that you know well
- Local Agency on Aging
- Churches and other religious organizations
- Volunteer organizations that assist seniors
- Licensed home care agencies
An Extended Family When You’re Too Far Away
With today’s busy lifestyles and dispersed families, it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you live too far away to provide your senior loved one with the caregiving they need to ensure their at-home independence. When you’re feeling burnt out and need a reliable pair of hands, contact First In Care, and we’ll step in as your “extended family” and provide your loved one with the support they need to continue aging safely and comfortably in the privacy of their own home. Our family-trusted in-home services include light housekeeping, personal hygiene, meal preparation, transportation, shopping and companionship, custom-tailored in an affordable package to restore your peace-of-mind. For more information on overcoming remote caregiver guilt, or to learn about the dependable in-home senior services we provide our Bradenton and Manatee County, FL, clients with, visit: www.firstincare.com now.