Caregiver Guilt

I’ve often said that as Kate’s caregiver, I have two goals: to keep her happy and to keep her safe. On the whole, I believe I’ve done well on both of these. That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t made mistakes, but I do try to learn from them. I had a lesson on that the other day.

Kate was tired that morning. She had been awake early the previous day and didn’t rest much during the afternoon. I woke her about 11:30. I assisted the caregiver getting her ready for the day. She took her meds with some yogurt. Then we let her rest a while. We are getting her out of bed frequently now though not every day.

That day I thought it would be especially nice to have her up and give her breakfast at the table rather than in the bed. A couple in the neighborhood was dropping by to look at our house that we have listed with a realtor before our move to a continuing care retirement community in April. Getting her out of bed is not a pleasant experience for Kate, but recently she has accepted it more easily. It was different that day. She protested vigorously as we got her ready to hoist her in the lift from her bed to the wheelchair.

I started to suggest to the caregiver that we just leave her in bed, but she is usually all right once she gets up. Now I wish I had followed my initial instinct and let her rest. Instead, we got her into the wheelchair while she screamed. Although I thought the worst would be behind us, she had a panic attack and I felt guilty about forcing her to get up.

She didn’t calm down for at least thirty minutes, but then she was fine. I was relieved but still felt guilty. I do think it is important to get her up as much as we can. If we don’t, she may continue to be bedridden. She is quite strong physically, and I would like to see her walk again, but in the future, I am going to be more careful in assessing her willingness or lack of willingness to get up. I don’t want to exacerbate the fear that she already has. It was a bitter lesson for me.