Will the guilt ever go away?


Its been 5 months since my dad passed away. But I still feel horribly guilty about his death. Almost three years after his stroke, he died in hospital. I feel responsible for his death. I feel like I killed him. I lived at home with him and was in charge of all his care. His meds, his doctor appointments, his food, his daily care, paying all the bills, maintaining the house. I tried to be the hero and do it all. The last year of his life was the toughest, he was getting angry, no pills, no to food, no showers. I just gave up and didn't even tell the doctor about these changes. I thought I would let him be and just make him comfortable. But it was horrible mistake, his heart gave out on him and he had a series of heart attacks. I realize I did not manage his care as well as I should have otherwise he would still be alive. My siblings don't blame me and even tell me I did the best I could. But in my heart I don't believe it. And I don't know if I will ever forgive myself.

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Cdn, in the case of two of my relatives I made what I *now* regard as careless, stupid errors of omission.

My 96 year old great aunt, whose constitution was virtually perfect, mentioned lightly to me that she had "legs like rugby players'" and I pleasantly shrugged it off as though she'd been being self-deprecating, and how touching that a lady of her age should be concerned about her appearance. What she meant, I realised too late, was that she had oedema in both legs, and I knew that her GP was a useless waste of space and wouldn't have examined her (he was great at holding hands and giving her "harmless" prescriptions for things she didn't really need, just to be seen to be doing something besides turning up for his fee). Before this, she'd been living independently, with a caregiver twice a week to help with baths. Not long after, ulcers, pain, immobility, weakness, a fall and fractured pelvis, admission to hospital... I did a lot of fast talking and got her out of hospital in the end, but she never got to go home. And all I had to do was LOOK, and I didn't, and it was the beginning of the end. She'd be 112 now. And do you know, I wouldn't completely put it past her to have made it...?

My dad, aged 71, was waiting for a cardiology appointment. My mother was constantly annoyed with him because he hadn't stopped drinking, and got dizzy, and it was all his own fault. The "drinking" was half a pint of beer, socially, with his friends. He rode a motorbike, he didn't ever have "one for the road." The getting dizzy, which again I knew - I KNEW. I just didn't THINK - was nothing to do with being half-cut. It was TIA's. And that meant clots. And that meant he couldn't wait for an appointment, he needed to be seen. He dropped dead on a squash court, lethal heart attack, and we all said it was out of the blue, but the truth is it wasn't out of the blue, and all one of us had to do was speak up and get assertive about it, and nobody did.

Hindsight is not always a wonderful thing. Sometimes it is torment.

Are you a cardiologist, or a stroke specialist, or a geriatrician? Are you even an experienced nurse or general practitioner? No. So, what standard of care are you holding yourself to, exactly? Try to be fair.

Suppose we, you and I, had done our duty as meticulously as we wish we had. Where would our loved ones be now? What kind of lives would they be leading? Would it really have been best for them if we'd kept them going, or is it just ourselves we want to save, from feeling guilty? The most loving thing you can do for a person isn't always to intervene.
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Dear Friends,

Thank you for your kind, compassionate and thoughtful replies. I am grateful. I'm going to try to do as you all said. With hugs to all.
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cdnreader, we all pretty much go through the "what ifs". If only I did this, or if only I did that.

I didn't do that with my Mom, as she was stubborn and had refused caregiving help. Sadly she created her own fate which ended with a terrible fall.

But I did do that with my Dad, as he was a kind soul, so easy to get along with, everyone who cared for him loved him. But I still go through the what ifs because he passed so quickly. Like, why didn't I have that cough of his checked out? Maybe he would still be here today.

I have to tell myself, Dad's cough, which turned out to be aspiration, professionals at Memory Care and his private caregiver would have noticed and said something. So they weren't worried about it, so I shouldn't be beating myself up over this. His passing was peaceful and he so wanted to be with my late Mom... they had been married for over 70 years.
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Given the opportunity to answer the question, "Would you have had it any other way?" I feel sure that your father would say that he would much rather have lived with you regardless of the level of physical care than the alternative. Forgive yourself - there is so much more value in the quality of our lives with people who love us than length of our lives with those who don't. I know that caregivers in nursing facilities come to care for their patients, but not like family. I say again, value your sacrifice, friend, and forgive yourself.
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I'm so sorry for your loss, and I don't think that feeling ever goes away. It gets easier though. You might want to contact hospice and see a councilor. When people are getting to the point where their ready to go, they aren't going to want to do anything. No food, water, pills, nothing. They don't even want to leave their room. You can just do the best you can. I know it's hard, I've been the caregiver for 4 people now. 2 passed away from cancer, one is still living, and the other one isn't going to be here much longer. In the back of my mind, I'm always thinking what could I do or could have done better. You have to remember though, that you gave them something that no one else did. Love, compassion, company, and hope. Just you being there for him, means more than any gourmet meal, or if they took meds on time. When their ready to join the spirits though, then it's their time. Just remember that he is in a better place now. Out of pain, worry, sad, stressed, anxious, and so many more things. I'm not sure what your religious views are, but just remember that he's watching over you. You did the best you could, and that more than anyone could have asked. It wasn't your fault that he passed. He was just ready to go.
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Guilt is a normal part of the grieving/healing process. You sound like you took on an awful lot, but no mater what, you were not responsible for his death. The anger, not taking meds, not eating properly, poor hygiene are all very difficult things to manage. 
My mother (85) is refusing all logical things like in home help, doctor visits, meds, daily showers... and she has told us regularly that she is 'done', wants to be with dad....
I get that.  I really do.  In the meantime, we do the best we can to honor her wishes and keep her as comfortable as possible. 
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