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One overriding theme for all of us is guilt. My rabbi told us it is a truly hurtful thing to feel guilt. Remorse is different, because you are taking responsibility for a mistake that may have hurt another person. Apologize in the best possible way, up to three times if you have to. Make sure you have learned how not to repeat your mistake. Then let go of the guilt and get on with being a better you.


What brought this on? Mom is 94, frail with dementia. Her health is stable but as we all know that can change instantly. My daughter lives in another country and is in a high risk pregnancy. I will be leaving next week for an unknown period of weeks to take care of my grandchildren until mom and new baby are safe. If anything happens to Mom, I can't come back.


The rest of the family knows I am leaving and might not see Mom again. I certainly can't be her primary decision maker/care supervisor. I will try to video chat with her daily, and if I am not there then life (or death) will have to go on without me.


It is easy to feel torn and guilty about leaving Mom. I am her rock since Dad died. I talk to her caregivers daily, arrange medical care, talk to her doctors, check on her multiple times/day, spend at least an hour each day on the phone and video chatting, drop over multiple times/week to give her a hug or bring her a treat, etc.


Does Mom understand she might never see me again? I doubt it. If she did, she would tell me to take care of the children, that she will be OK.


I am sad about leaving her but do not feel guilty about it. None of us should feel guilty - we are all doing the best that we can in difficult situations.

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I needed this. Thanks. My mom is good mentally but needs a lot of monitoring to ensure she (kind of) gets proper nutrition, doesn't make a big mess everyday and doesn't overdo it somehow and hurt herself. My teens need me emotionally. Especially my daughter. Mom lives with us in a too small home and I have seen the stress affect us all.

We all love her and feel for her due to her chronic health issues, but it can be taxing. Especially when she resents reasonable advice / limits for her health and safety.

I just realized TODAY part of why I haven't finished completing her Medicaid application is guilt. She periodically reminds me how she took care of her mom towards the end. What she doesn't seem to realize is I was away at college so she didn't have the same responsibilities that I have with two teenagers at home.

She seems to think I should be able to work full time, care for my kids and cater to all her needs no sweat by myself. Have a life of.my own? Not sure she thinks that OS relevant.

She has a caring side. Sometimes she treats us by paying for dinner and her Christmas gifts are always generous. I think the chronic pain and other issues has caused her to be depressed and self absorbed. And maybe there is some cognitive decline but It may just be the isolation. (She won't socialize with other family or even her old friends except every blue moon she will call someone.)

Anyway, I know I can't neglect my own dreams and health or totally marginalize my kids to fit my mom's idea of how I should help her. And ultimately it's better for EVERYONE if I get outside help and/or find a facility that can handle nursing and other tasks so I can fo us on being her daughter and doing more fun/personal things for her.

I wish she understood that, but I have to be okay if she doesn't.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my vent/mental processing. :-)

The Bible says to honor our parents. How we do that may look different for each family. I trust God to guide me and strengthen me in this journey.
Ex 20:12 - Mt 7:12 - Ja 1:5
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We do what we can.
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Imho, you must not hold on to guilt as you CANNOT be in two locations at the same time.
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Adding guilt to such a prolonged grieving process is just harmful. But for me, I would have to say I have a difficult time controlling it, however I do agree with you. Our best is all we can offer, and we need to remember to appreciate our efforts, and yes, learn from our mistakes. Being supporting of one another (friends, family and strangers alike) is the best gift we give and receive.
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Guilt has no part in this journey so many of us face. I agree that parents are responsible for the children they bring into the world. But for us "kids" to feel that we owe them care for sometimes 10, 20 or 30 years is our gift, not our responsibility. In the 19th century the average life expectancy was 30 years; not 30 years of being old, 30 years TOTAL. The explosion in medical skill and care and safer work has created a world of elder needs that has never existed before. Maybe households had multiple generations living together, it wasn't one person running around like crazy from Dr. to store to Mom, trying to manage a family, a job, with no support system. A girlfriend the other day reminded me of the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is feeling bad because of something I did. Shame is feeling bad because of something I am. We didn't create this world of very old, very ill elders. We aren't bad because current realities make us related to very old, very ill relatives. We can choose to care for them up to our abilities and them communicate with other people involved for help. There's so much guilt and shame in our letters my heart hurts for us. If there was no guilt, how would that smooth out the decision making?
Luv to all.
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We say goodbye to our loved ones - who they no longer are everytime they lose ground in this dementia process. It does not negative the love and respect we've given them before their illness.

How many times through the years we've heard "I'm okay, now go ahead and do...." Safe travel.
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Thank you so much, I needed to read this. I am that long-haul caregiver, that silent sufferer in the process of transitioning her to a nursing home. Her condition has advanced to a stage where she needs more assistance in her care that I can no longer provide. The "grief" is also palpable...it's hard to see her be less of herself...everyday. I feel like she is taking me to the bottom of dementia with her. My "self" has taken so much damage that I feel like there's nothing left of me and yet I have to force myself up. I have a special needs child that really needs more of my attention than ever, and a family that has suffered with me through this. I no longer know how to feel at this point, but I know "guilt" is somewhere there. It's a long goodbye for me too, but I need to work my way through this, and your post has helped a lot.
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Thank you for your post. You are spot on.

I wish you, your mother, your daughter and grandchildren as well as the rest of your family to be blessed with grace, peace and love.
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There is no reason to feel guilty. The cycle of life goes on. The old will die the young shall live. None of us came with instruction. When we are born our parents worried because the only have experience by watching our parents so we raise our children by faith.when it comes to the end of our life there are no instructions how to die, how to care for the dying.
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I think we all feel guilt to some degree, and for many different reasons. I carried a lot of guilt in me, especially after Mama died back in December. It's gotten much better with time, but when I have the occasional twinge, I simply look up to Heaven and say, "I'm so sorry, Mama," after which I wipe away the tears and go on with my day. Just voicing it makes a big difference.
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Feel whatever you need to feel at the time. Honor your feelings. Process them. Move on. People who get stuck usually need therapy to move forward. Clergy can help as well if they are properly trained in counseling.

Guilt and grief are two separate emotions and are often confused. Sometimes though, for a time, they both walk side by side. Social workers that specialize in caregiving will speak of this.

Guilt and grief are equally valid emotions, and if ‘guilt’ leads to feelings of remorse, it serves a good purpose. If ‘guilt’ motivates a person to find a solution to a problem, it is also useful. If ‘guilt’ leads to a path of self destruction, then it’s harmful. It truly depends on the context of a situation.

Every situation is unique in caregiving. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Everyone feels what they feel. There isn’t any point in denial or suppression of what we feel. We must process our emotions instead of saying that we don’t feel them. Therapists will say that we don’t get ‘over’ issues, we work ‘through’ our issues.

Wishing you all the best.
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God's speed.
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I hope that mom and new baby do well and have no complications.

I hope for all of you that nothing happens with your mom while you are caring for your grandchildren and daughter. It will just be easier if it doesn't but, you know that what will be, will be and we must support the new generations.

I agree that grandma and great grandma would tell you to go and be present for the young ones.

Have a great trip and enjoy your time with the grandchildren. What a blessing for all of you that you can provide this support.
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I am glad to see the subject of "guilt" brought up. I see the word used wrongly all the time by people, and the words we use matter. Most OPs who say they feel guilt are really feeling GRIEF, instead. Grief over not being able to do it all, over having human limitations, over seeing the descent of an elder into what seems like a torment. Yet over and over they use guilt. I heard a whole program on grieving on NPR in which grief counselors said it is very hard to move on when guilt is used because it suggests that you can go into the past and had you done it better it never would have happened. It keeps people from processing what they are really experiencing --grief.
Very few take this issue up. I am so glad you had quality support and I am so glad you brought this subject up.
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👍👍👍
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Thank you for your comments. I agree. There are so many reasons caregivers feel guilty: not doing enough, doing too little, being too far away (long distance caring), placing their LO in a care facility, feeling relieved because they placed their LO in a care facility (after all, we shouldn't feel good when our LO is suffering), etc., etc. It's unfortunate that so many caregivers who make personal sacrifices every day still struggle with guilt. As you say, “ None of us should feel guilty - we are all doing the best that we can in difficult situations”.
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A wonderful perspective in a wonderful, honest letter. You are appreciated for your sharing, Dr. Benshir.
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Thank you
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