Caregiver Emotions: Guilt vs. Peace

Reconciling Competing Priorities!

I hope you are having, will have, or had a great weekend with your family! If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you spend at least some of your time either personally, online, or on the phone with a declining parent. You may have noticed that they are starting to need some care but wonder what you can do to make their situation better. They may be declining physically and as a result, it is harder for them to do everyday tasks. Or you may have noticed that they are declining cognitively and are simply forgetting things. Either way, you are facing a full range of caregiver emotions.

Substantial Decline

In some cases it is worse than that – your parent may have declined substantially physically or cognitively and may need some extra help to perform daily tasks. In situations where enough local family members are able (and willing) to provide some assistance, this decline may not have yet risen to the level of being a “big deal”. Caregiver emotions are much easier to manage in these cases.

However, in a situation where local family is not available, your parent may need third party caregivers or may need facility care. To complicate matters, some seniors can’t afford outside assistance or (even if they can afford it) don’t want “outsiders” coming in there home. The farther down the road of decline they slip, the more stress and tension levels rise. As stress and tension levels rise, caregiver emotions become more prevalent.

You Want to Help, but..

You want to help, but if you live out of state or are extremely busy with your job and your own family, then being available to provide care on an ongoing basis for a declining parent may not be an option. In this situation, the best you can do is stop by to visit when you can, fly in to see them a few times a year, or have a periodic phone or online chat. Many times like this, a busy caregiver will experience emotions of guilt if they think they can’t do enough.

Guilt vs. Peace

This for some people is where the guilt part comes into play. Not that it should. After all, you haven’t done anything wrong to feel guilty about. You are living your life, helping provide for your family, and are spending time with your kids and grandkids. Even though you know you are doing everything right, you still feel guilty!

How do you find some peace with this situation? How can you constructively deal with your caregiver emotions? You love your parent and want the very best for them. You are willing to do whatever you can to make sure that they get the proper care. However given the constraints of time and distance, you have question how you can contribute to their care.

Reconciling competing priorities

We see many people struggling with this on a continuous basis. The root cause of the problem is the simple law of physics that tell us that we can’t be in two places at once. It is obvious that you love your parent and want the best for them. It is also clear to you that you love your family and want to be with them. Finally, you factor in the time you have to spend on your job or business – how do you reconcile all of these conflicting priorities?

The best way we have seen people reconcile the conflicting priorities is by creating a well-designed plan. We call this a Mom Centered Family Meeting Plan.

The Basic Steps when Confronting Caregiver Emotions

  1. Determine whether Mom wants your assistance. If so, have a conversation with her to determine what she wants.
  2. If she has not had a recent medical assessment that may be a good place to start so as to determine her medical need.
  3. It’s also a good idea to do a family assessment to determine what tasks Mom is struggling to perform that she could do easily 6 months ago.
  4. Have a conversation with your siblings to determine whether they are able and willing to assist with her care needs.
  5. Gather all information such as financial and legal information. Determine whether you are authorized to make decisions on her behalf.
  6. Schedule a Mom Centered Family Meeting where you come up with the best going forward plan possible for your declining parent. At this meeting your also design a pivot plan whereby you can determine in advance what to do in the event her health declines even more in the future.
  7. Go forth and implement the decisions that you made at the meeting.


After doing the above, you will know that you have created and implemented the best plan possible. Your Mom will still have cognitive or health issues and will possibly continue to decline. But your family will have (1) met together as a unit; (2) will have carefully considered medical and other professional input they have received; (3) will have considered Mom’s wishes and their ability and willingness to help; (4) will have assessed all available options and determined how to pay for these options and (5) will have implemented their carefully crafted plan.

In other words – the family will know that they have given this their very best effort. When they look in the mirror, they will know they have done the best thing possible for their declining parent.

We want to be friends!

Ok. That might come off a little fast, considering we barely know each other. However, we fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver.

In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community!

We have since created Caregiver Connection. Caregiver Connection is a newsletter that we write personally and send to fellow Caregivers. It is full of tips, tricks, and even professional advice. If you would like to sign up, click the button below.

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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