News Break: Why Caregivers Feel Guilty

For some people, guilt is as tied to caregiving as stress or pressure is. It’s just one of those things that comes with the territory. But why? Why, when you’re doing the best you can, do you still so often feel that pang?

At the website for the Boston Globe, Suzanne Koven, a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explores this issue. “I said to a patient recently,” she writes, “when she told me how guilty she felt about not calling her mother more often, that she could keep her mother on speaker phone all day long, and still feel guilty. She agreed.”

One of Koven’s proposed reasons for such unwarranted feelings is survivor’s guilt:

In the years when my mother became increasingly infirm, she would revel in my descriptions of office politics and kids’ sleepovers and exotic vacations. “What a full life you lead!” she would exclaim. She’d say she wished she could get in a time machine and go back to the 1960s, when she, too, was active and independent — and wearing Jackie Kennedy-style sheath dresses.

Other guilt-fueling reasons Koven suggests include having to be the “bad cop” to parents, feeling unappreciated or helpless, and realizing that you may be in your parent’s situation one day.

Whatever the reason, perhaps understanding why caregivers feel guilty can help relieve some of those feelings. Where do you think the guilt comes from?

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