Dealing With Caregiver Guilt: Simple Tips for Improving Your Outlook

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Mon May 22 2023.

Mother and son.

Guilt is one of the most common emotions family caregivers face. Everyone’s situation is different, but guilt commonly appears in one of the following ways:

  • Guilt over the inability to “do a great job” or “provide adequate care” 

  • Guilt over negative emotions, such as feelings of resentment, anger, or inadequacy

  • Guilt over caregiving decisions, such as putting a loved one in a nursing home or care facility

“It’s every caretaker’s goal to love and serve their loved one to the best of their abilities,” said Mitzie Watson, RN, a Certified Senior Advisor and the owner of Assisted Living Locators West Dallas / Mid Cities. “If your loved one has special needs and you don’t have the knowledge or skills to meet them, you might feel like you’re failing.”

Even if you’re an experienced caregiver, your responsibilities might interfere with your relationships, career, or ability to go places and do things. These challenges can be overwhelming, but it’s possible to keep your feelings of guilt to a minimum.

Here are a few things you can do to keep a positive attitude and stay out of your head:

Tips for Managing Feelings of Guilt

1) Make Time for Self-Care

If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t have the energy or patience you need to thrive as a caregiver. 

“You must take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, and schedule your own preventive medical care,” Watson said. “Acknowledge that you regularly need to take some time for yourself to rest and do things you enjoy. Take a weekend off and get a few full nights of sleep without interruptions whenever possible.”

If you don’t have friends or family nearby, respite care might be an option. Respite care programs provide short-term relief for family caregivers by providing professional adult supervision for several hours or days.

2) Talk About Your Feelings

Caregiving is hard work. It’s normal to feel angry, resentful, or exhausted, but if you bottle these emotions up instead of talking about them, you’re also more likely to blow up and do or say something you regret. 

“If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or feelings of failure, reach out to a counselor, a family friend, or the minister at your church, and discuss those feelings,” advises Watson. 

Likewise, consider joining a support group. Interacting with others who can relate to your daily routine and experiences can be incredibly therapeutic.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has online and in-person support groups that you may benefit from if your loved one has a dementia diagnosis. And, there are many other support groups available for different medical diagnoses and diseases,” Watson said. “Look for a group online or in your area that best meets your needs.”

3) Acknowledge the Guilt

It can be scary to admit that you feel like a bad caregiver. You may think that accepting the way you feel means that you are a bad caregiver. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!  

“No one enjoys voicing feelings of embarrassment or uncertainty,” Watson said. “Caregiving is hard, and you’re constantly in a battle with your heart and mind, trying to do the best you can while always second-guessing and beating yourself up.”

Acknowledging your guilt removes its power. Plus, guilt is like all other emotions in that it’s fleeting. So by being mindful of moments you feel guilty, you can better center yourself and move forward. 

4) Consume Positive Content 

Learning about your loved one’s diagnosis is essential to your caregiving responsibilities, but it shouldn’t consume you. Researching a worrisome prognosis or worst-case scenarios can trigger more anxiety and cause you to spiral out of control.

It’s crucial to find a healthy balance. Stay informed, but don’t overdo it. Your loved one’s doctor or other care team members can recommend reliable and informative resources you can trust. 

Also, social media platforms are great, but they can cause caregiving headaches. Unfortunately, many caregivers report that well-meaning comments from friends and family often exacerbate feelings of inadequacy or guilt.

“If you plan on offering any caregiver advice either online or in-person, only make positive suggestions,” Watson said. “If you’re rude or abrasive, it will only reinforce the negative feelings the caregiver is already experiencing.”

5) Stop Trying to Predict the Future

Many caregivers say they feel guilty if their loved one isn’t able to stay at home. But there’s no way to anticipate the type of care someone might need in the future.

“Instead of promising that you will never put them in a nursing home or an assisted-living community, promise your loved one that you will always provide them with the best care you can, even if that means professional assistance,” Watson said. 

This commitment alone can help you feel confident in all your future decisions.


Guilt is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. For caregivers, feelings of guilt may be more intense as you make choices that affect your loved one’s future. It’s a big responsibility, but you need to be forgiving to yourself.

“You can’t be ALL things to ALL people, but you can give yourself grace and do the best you can,” Watson said. “When you do that, you can minimize some of the guilt and be the caregiver you’re meant to be.”

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.