Taking care of someone with an ailment is a noble thing to do. But what isn’t talked about enough is how stressful it can get. After all, being a caregiver is a huge role to take on — because they’re responsible for someone’s life. But it can take a toll on the caregiver. Sometimes, these unsung heroes experience “caregiver guilt.” It has a wide array of causes but it mainly has a lot to do with their caregiving journey.

4 Causes of Caregiver Guilt

Caregiver guilt isn’t exclusively a feeling of guilt but rather a variety of emotions that, ultimately, boils down to its root cause — being a caregiver; it can be a feeling of anxiety, sadness, or frustration.

Here are some of its causes.

Being annoyed or resentful at the person (before finding out about their diagnosis)

We don’t always notice right away when a person is sick. Usually, it has to take a doctor to say that a person is indeed dealing with a disease. For instance, those with relatives who have dementia often complain about their loved one being repetitive with their questions. They typically have to find out the hard way that their loved one isn’t doing that to annoy or frustrate them. People who have/had family members who have been diagnosed with leukemia or motor disabilities (like cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis) might’ve initially thought that their relative was merely careless for acquiring bruises or just plain clumsy for constantly tripping or having poor muscle coordination.

Caregiver guilt comes into the picture to some once the caregiver realizes what’s been causing these mildly irritating to deeply infuriating habits the patient has been exhibiting.

Having to put them in a nursing home or hospice

Perhaps many have promised their parents that they’ll take care of them up until their last day. However, not many have been able to do so. Sometimes, the reason for it is they weren’t prepared for the demanding reality of being a caregiver to someone who’s sick or is in their end-of-life stage. Thus, some resort to sending their parents or relatives to a nursing home or hospice for them to be looked after — this can make a caregiver feel guilty or inadequate for not doing their best or trying their hardest in taking care of their loved one.

Wanting or wishing that it was over (or feeling happy or comforted that someone else is taking care of them now or that because the person died)

Caregiving is a full-time job for many. To those who are related to the patient, it’s a 24/7 duty. Because of this, a caregiver will witness most (if not, all) things that the sick person is dealing with. As much as everyone wishes that the patient recovers, it isn’t always the case — sometimes, the patient’s health will decline. Caregiver or not, seeing a person in misery isn’t a good sight to view. That’s why in a handful of cases, uttering the lines “I wish your suffering would end” becomes slightly easier. When the person’s suffering finally ends and they die, however, caregiver guilt is a common feeling that a lot of caregivers feel.

Not having time for others you also love

One can only wear so many hats — be it a parent, a child, a spouse, or an employee. But reality will sometimes throw another curveball where you also have to assume the caregiving position. Even though it’s a dignified task, it’s still difficult to juggle caregiving and being another person the next. There will also be times when a caregiver has to take care of the person troubled with the ailment for longer than what was asked of them.

When being a caregiver becomes a person’s main identity, at times, this can cause a strain in their person’s relationship with others — and it can make them feel guilty because of it. Moreover, it’s not just not being able to be there for other loved ones that can cause caregiver guilt. There have been times when caregivers felt bad for being there for themselves — like when they practice self-care.

Balancing Life as a Caregiver

Caregiver guilt is a common phenomenon. It’s said that 54% of caregivers experience this. Therefore, it’s not a bizarre emotion to feel — because you are not alone. Another thing that isn’t bizarre (because it’s natural) is that people get sick — including the ones we love. It may be difficult to witness them suffering, but pain and death are also part of life and its cycle.

If even medical practitioners can misdiagnose and fail to notice some symptoms of illnesses, then you can find comfort in the fact that even experts are only humans, too! Therefore, knowing your loved one was sick from day 1 may actually have been impossible in the first place. It’s not your fault. Almost nobody would have known right away — especially if your loved one only displayed minor signs of the illness.

There’s also nothing wrong with calling for backup when it’s needed. Hospices, nursing homes, and palliative care professionals are there for a reason — they’ll help you do what you can’t do for the ones you care about. And they’ll make sure that your loved one is as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

Lastly, wanting time to spend with your other loved ones — and for yourself — is never a bad thing! Being a caregiver shouldn’t be your only purpose. If you need another caregiver to help take care of a sick relative for a few days, you can do just that. Because other people would want to have you around also. The person you’re being a caregiver for would (and should) normally understand this as well. If not, you can do your best to explain your other roles to them. And if it helps with your peace of mind, you can train the other caregiver yourself to ensure that they’ll execute the caregiving tasks exactly like how you would.


Caregiving is a difficult but rewarding role. Sadly, caregivers sometimes experience caregiver guilt because of the huge responsibility bestowed upon them. At times, just like most negative emotions, it can even interfere with someone’s personal and professional life. But that doesn’t mean being a caregiver is nothing but a daunting job. Once you realize that there will be times when caregiving comes with feeling bad for yourself and the one you’re caring for, tell yourself how honorable it is to be the chosen and trusted person to deal with this task — and remind yourself how many other people in your lives are proud of you.


BUT, if the emotions are far too dreadful to deal with — and healthy coping mechanisms don’t work — you can seek a therapist (or other types of medical service providers specialized in mental health) to discuss these feelings with. Again, practicing self-care isn’t a bad thing!

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.