Managing Feelings of Guilt When Hiring In-Home Care

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Caring for a senior involves a mix of complex emotions. Even when a family caregiver is doing everything in their power to meet a loved one’s needs, doubt, anxiety and guilt still creep in from time to time. These feelings can become overwhelming because caregivers, above all, care.

What is all too common, but NOT a healthy response, is when caregivers allow doubt and guilt to influence decision making—especially when they are looking for outside help. Fortunately, there are steps caregivers can take to restore balance in their lives and feel at peace with their choices. Below are a few of the most common reasons why families feel conflicted when hiring in-home care and some suggestions for making the process a more guilt-free experience.

A Caregiver’s Sense of Duty

Many family caregivers accept this responsibility because they feel they have a duty to help the people they love. After all, family members are supposed to support one another in times of hardship, right? Problems arise when caregivers construe this basic family value to mean that they must do whatever it takes to see to a loved one’s care personally. It is crucial to keep expectations for yourself realistic. An individual who is solely responsible for another person's needs over the long term often ignores their own, which ultimately impacts the care recipient and other outside relationships.

When a caregiver with a strong sense of duty seeks outside help, it can feel as if they have failed their loved one, however nothing could be further from the truth. A strong caregiver is able to acknowledge that they must care for themselves in order to provide quality care for others. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Instead of thinking of professional caregivers as replacements, they should be considered extensions—an extra set of hands and eyes to help with tasks and chores.

Take a step back and allow other family members, friends, and elder care professionals help you help your loved one. With this positive addition to the care plan, not only can time spent with your loved one become less stressful and more enjoyable, but you will have more time available to cultivate relationships and pursue interests that may have been overlooked.

Read: Caregiving Needs to Be a Team Effort

When a Senior Only Wants You to Be Their Caregiver

A loved one’s refusal to accept outside help can tug at a caregiver’s heartstrings. Change is often overwhelming for seniors who are set in their ways and reluctant to welcome someone new into their homes and lives. Their protests coupled with the sense of obligation to do it all yourself can be enough to scare you away from the thought of bringing in a professional caregiver.

Gaining insight into a senior’s fears and concerns will help you address their worries directly. Involving them in the hiring and caregiver selection processes will allow them to feel they have some control over their own care. Knowing that your loved one feels safe and comfortable with their aide can minimize your feelings of guilt.

Even if they continue to object, make it very clear that this assistance is for BOTH of you. Stay strong in your decision, and allow for an adjustment period. Over time, many seniors grow to enjoy the relationships they develop with professional caregivers.

Read: Coping with Elders Who Won’t Accept In-Home Caregivers

Deciding to Pay for Care

The decision to hire in-home care is difficult enough without the added concern over how to cover the costs. Even if a senior has money to spend on care, families often feel a deep sense of guilt about using a lifetime of savings to pay for outside help.

Paying a professional for similar services a family member could provide may seem frivolous, but keep in mind that in-home caregivers are trained in elder care and bring countless benefits to the family. It can be difficult to accept, but a professional may be better suited to provide the care a senior needs. The cost may appear to be high, but respite time and your peace of mind are invaluable. You are a better caregiver when you allow yourself to take regular breaks. Spend some time evaluating care needs and establishing a realistic budget. Adding outside help, even for just a few hours each week, can significantly reduce the strain on family members.

Knowing that there are a number of different ways to pay for home care can also alleviate some of this hesitancy. Medicare, the VA, Medicaid and long-term care insurance are just a few resources that cover care provided in the home. Identifying the combination of payment options available to your loved one can get you one step closer to starting services.

Read: How to Pay for In-Home Care

Self-Care for the Caregiver

It is important to remember that difficult feelings associated with caregiving are entirely normal, but don’t let yourself get bogged down by negativity. Caregivers who become overwhelmed by their responsibilities are at high risk for caregiver burnout. Someone who is physically and mentally exhausted is not capable of providing high quality care. Make a point of engaging in self-care and take actions that promote your physical and mental wellbeing. Join a local support group or use AgingCare’s online forum to connect with other caregivers, share experiences and find support.

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4 Comments

When my son developed some serious health issues and bipolar regression, I had to step back from taking care of my Mom 5 days a week. My brother and sister couldn't/wouldn't help more, so we hired an agency to come in 3 days a week for 4 hours a day. She needs more, but my hard-headed POA brother won't do it. Anyway.....(I digress) the best way to stay on top of things is to pop in unannounced. I have a key, so I just go in. The one big drawback I have seen is that if Mom says she doesn't want to eat - they cannot make her. They cannot make her do anything, really - use her walker, etc. They do light cleaning, make she has her meds and lunch, and listen to hear if she needs anything. Mom needs to be in a facility where she can be supervised 24/7, but this has to do for now. I do not feel guilty at all in even wanting Mom in a facility - what she needs must come before what she or we want. Her safety and well being has to be of first consideration.
Rosemary26. I was a caregiver until two years ago that mom and dad passed away. Yes, it's hard to put the life of your sick frail parents in the hands of a total stranger. But you have the right to interview the HHA. You have a right to tell the agency you don't want that HHA and why! Caregivers must be active and present in thier parents lives once a HHA is assigned. I presently work for a Managed Long Term Care in New York City. We will help the care givers find a certified HHA. For those residing out of NYC, reach out to the Department of health or to Department of aging.
I am now in the process of arranging a home health aide for my dad through the VA, and am working with a wonderful agency with a high standard of care. Do I feel guilt? Hardly! This is going to be instrumental in our peace of mind during the day when we're at work and cannot personally oversee things.

If this type of service is available to our loved ones, it would be short-sighted to not at least explore the option.