The Price Of Guilt: Caring For A Senior Parent

June 16, 2016

As parents age, the family unit shifts allowing responsibilities and routines to move to a younger generation. The question then becomes, “what if I can’t take on anymore?” I work with a female-dominated client base and many of my clients feel guilty over not being able to take on additional tasks such as Christmas dinner.

A study from Statistics Canada revealed that “nearly 6 in 10 caregivers are women between the ages of 45 and 54, the ages at which many Canadians still have children living at home. About 3 in 4 caregivers were married. Others also juggled employment with family and eldercare tasks.”

Caregivers and Guilt

Consider for a moment how busy you actually are. Between working, caring for a family and a household, women feel guilty about making time for themselves let alone trying to add in time for caring for a parent.

The top 5 reasons women feel guilty in this situation:

  1. Your parents raised you so there is a sense of responsibility to help.
  2. You didn’t catch on to what was happening soon enough.
  3. You have to take time off work to be a caregiver.
  4. You don’t visit your parents often enough or live too far away to visit.
  5. You’re spending more time caregiving than with children, spouse and friends.

No one wants to see their parents struggle and would do most things in order to address the situation. This usually means taking on way more than you can for way longer than you should. Many of my clients have expressed a sense of guilt over wanting to live their own lives, and having too much on their own plate to care for their parents on top of it.

Moving a Parent into Your Home

“We are going to move mom in with us. She is relatively independent and we can help with the little things. She begged us not to move her into a home.” This is a common litany I hear from caregivers in Ottawa. Many of them feel “It’s our turn to be the caregiver.” “We promised mom we wouldn’t move her into a home.”

What many soon realize is that their parent(s) need more help than they originally thought. That what was supposed to be limited to living in an in-law suite and sharing meals with the family has now turned into so much more including:

  • Transportation to and from medical appointments and social gatherings
  • Monitoring of eating (many seniors don’t eat enough)
  • Guilt for having to work all day leaving a loved one home alone.

Often times when caregivers are in this situation, by the time they look for outside help they are already past their breaking point.

Black and white mirror
The price of guilt

Suitable Substitutes (yes, you will still feel guilty)

Plenty of substitute care options are available for those who wish to consider them whether as a short-term fix or a more long-term solution. As said above, guilt tends to make a lot of people take on more than they should and rarely accept help.

To caregivers who choose not to ask for help, I often tell the same thing I tell my senior clients who wish to stay in their homes but require assistance. It’s all well and good to want to remain independent without additional assistance, but putting the right measures in place in a timely manner not only extends the length of time you can stay in the situation but it also drastically reduces accidents and burnout.

Some short-term options for caregivers include:

  • Setting up respite stays at a local retirement residence for your loved one on a regular basis
  • Bringing in CCAC to assist with in-home care
  • Reaching out to home care providers to bring in paid services
  • Taking personal time for yourself by involving siblings and additional family members.

Longer-term options include:

  • Similar to short-term, bringing in CCAC and/or paid home care providers on an ongoing basis
  • Looking to another sibling to take over the majority of the caregiving
  • Making a move to a retirement residence or a long-term care home.

In the end, taking on all this guilt will lead to burnout which will put not only you at risk but also your parent(s). Take time for yourself, put support in place and most of all respect yourself and your parents enough to know when things are getting out of hand and do something about it sooner rather than later.

Did you find this blog helpful? Many others are struggling with guilt and caring for a senior parent. Help them by sharing on Facebook or Twitter with the links on the right.

Are you struggling with guilt and/or caring for a senior parent? Tea & Toast is here to help you. Based in Ottawa, we offer retirement residence search services, as well as resources for the senior health care industry. Contact us today at or (613) 698.1319.

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