Caregiver Regrets: No Life, No Job, No Friends

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 150 September 21, 2022. Caregiver regrets include no life, no job, and no friends. Learn how to examine choices and make changes to persist in creating your goals and accomplishing your dreams.

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Caregiver regrets, specifically having no life, no friends, and no job, can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t matter whether you are 20, 40, 60, or 80—the decisions you make to care for an elderly parent, spouse, grandparent, or another family member will eliminate other choices.

The consequences of the tradeoffs you make can lead to a life of isolation, loneliness, worry about career and income, relationship challenges, and feeling hopeless.

Caregiving: No Life, No Job, No Friends

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

This episode is about helping you examine and own your choices so that you can make changes to identify your goals and persist in accomplishing your dreams.

Making Dreams Come True

Achieving goals means identifying the gaps—what is missing from your life that you’d like to have, skills that you might need, and other disparities.

Believe it or not, identifying gaps can take a lot of thought, trial, and error, especially if you’re not sure what you want in your life, what you don’t want, skills, knowledge, or experience that might be beneficial.

Making your dreams come true can happen anytime—any day, week, or month—but only if you work toward your goals and never give up. Making these changes and taking these actions may not be easy.

A positive mental attitude, having a plan, and being persistent is necessary.

5 Steps to Avoid Caregiver Regret

Thinking positively and having the energy to create change can be challenging if you are a caregiver who feels worn-out, burned-out, physically sick, exhausted, or hopeless. So, we will talk about five steps to avoid caregiver regrets and the harmful effects of caregiving.

1 Choosing Positive Versus Negative Thoughts

The first step to preventing caregiver regrets is realizing that you cannot afford to hang out mentally in a place of negativity. So whenever your mind goes to a place of negative thinking, worry, or stress—take a few moments to pause. It is possible to reduce negative thinking and loneliness.

If you need a physical cue for pausing, one idea is to put a loose rubber band around your wrist and gently snap the band. Gently snapping the rubberband on your wrist can establish a pattern interrupt to help you realize that it’s time to stop your mind from negative thinking and refocus your thoughts on something positive.

If you can, notice how your body feels when you think negatively, worry, or experience stress. Your muscles tense up, you feel pain in your stomach, you sweat, your heartbeat speeds up, or maybe you get a headache when you usually don’t have headaches.

Until you notice how negativity, worry, or stress makes you feel, it can be challenging to think about changing this automatic response to the emotional and physical effects of being a caregiver.

Control Your Thoughts

The mind constantly works and talks to us as we go through each day. However, we can control what our mind thinks.

It’s important to realize that what we believe may not always be accurate. Especially if thoughts focus on what other people think of us and how our actions might be perceived.

Everyone also has what is called bias. Bias means our beliefs result from personal experiences that can result in judgment. For example, believing A is better than B.

But unless one investigates A and B, a belief can be faulty and cause more challenges and difficulties. You might make mistakes and go down the wrong road if your actions result from having inaccurate information.

Add to this that the mind can catastrophize a situation and blow it out of control when there’s no factual basis for the mind to think this way.

Choose Your Thoughts

So when the mind goes to a place of negativity, stress, or worry, ask yourself

  • Is this thought process making me feel good or bad?
  • What thoughts are running through my head?
  • Am I being judgmental or participating in biased thinking?

Stop and say to yourself, I am feeling nervous, anxious, angry, or afraid about X when there may or may not be an issue. Or, Y happened, and experiencing this event made my heart beat fast, and my stomach hurt.

I don’t want to feel this way, so I will choose to think differently, changing how my body feels. So instead, you choose the next step, which may be closing your eyes for 30 seconds and saying something positive to yourself like my body is relaxed, and I feel calm.

Maybe you think of a favorite song or recall a positive experience. You can also step outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Get a cup of coffee and enjoy the warm feeling of holding the cup.

Ask—is this feeling something I should investigate before I get all worked up? The idea is to physically change the sensations in your body from flight or fight to calm and relaxed.

Find tips for recognizing and responding to self-destructive caregiver behaviors on Episode 139 of The Caring Generation Podcasts. 

Identify Physical Responses to Thoughts

The more you identify how your thoughts affect the physical body, the easier it will be for you to create this transition to manage signs of caregiver stress and investigate your feelings. Many psychological problems of caregivers relate to the day-in and day-out wear and tear posed by completing care activities for elderly parents, spouses, and others.

By noticing negative thoughts and how they make you feel, you can gain more control of emotional reactions that can cause caregiver regrets. For example, in a close relationship, you may say or do something out of anger and regret it later.

Taking statements made by others personally is also common in caregiving relationships, especially when you feel unappreciated. These situations can lead to family caregivers taking responsibility for things not in their control.

Feelings of self-blame, feelings of inadequacy, or low self-esteem can contribute to caregiver regrets. Doubt can be another feeling that creeps into caregiving relationships when elderly parents, spouses, or others are critical of the caregiver’s actions.

If you are the caregiver, you might wonder:

  • How long can I keep doing this?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Am I doing enough?
  • Why isn’t the person I care for satisfied with what I’m doing?
  • Am I a bad person because I am angry at the person I care for?

These thoughts may make you resentful and increase thoughts about giving up your life, your job or career, postponing college or getting married, giving up friends, or sacrificing your financial well-being and health to become a caregiver.

Using a thought diary may be helpful if you consistently think negatively, worry, or feel stressed about your life situation. The idea of a thought or worry diary to manage the effects of being a caregiver is to allow you to look at common themes or patterns to create responses that reduce the stress you feel when thinking these thoughts.

When you worry, write it down and move on with your day. Then schedule 15 minutes of worry time to review your notes.

  • Were you worrying needlessly?
  • Did you blow a situation out of control?
  • Does a situation require follow-up to investigate and manage?
  • Are there pros and cons to investigate so that you understand the issue?

If you’ve tried these suggestions and are unsuccessful, seeing a therapist can help you work through emotional and psychological stressors by giving you additional tools and processes. A different perspective can help manage negative, stressful, or worrisome thinking.

 2 Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The second step for managing caregiver regrets of no life, no job, and no friends is the idea of getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. What does this mean?

A simple example is to remember when you were in high school trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. Did you plan to attend college? If so, in what specialty area?

Did you want to become a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or a skilled tradesperson like an electrician, mechanic, or architect?

Remember how uncertain life was back then? How one step turned into the next, and you progressed to where you are today.

  • If you are a young caregiver who is twenty years old, your life may be filled with even more uncertainties because you may want to attend college or work, but caregiving responsibilities may be holding you back.
  • You may want to work and find that the mental distractions of caregiving prevent you from working in the type of job you want that requires significant focus.
  • Or you may be a middle-aged caregiver thinking about giving up your job to become a full-time caregiver.
  • Maybe you already gave up your job and had a lot of regrets about giving up a source of income and independence.

Regardless of your situation, there are many aspects to getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

Identifying What You Want and Don’t Want

avoiding caregiver regretsTo manage caregiver regrets, let’s relate discomfort to the idea of identifying what you want and don’t want in your life and then making changes to achieve these goals.

So how do you get there? In the middle of managing caregiver regrets is problem-solving and decision-making activities.

Now, like when you were younger, trying to figure out what you would be when you grow up, there are a few steps involved.

I imagine for most people, “caregiver” was never on the list of things you wanted or expected to do.

The caregiving gap is one of the great surprises in life when it happens to you suddenly or over time as the health of an aging parent or loved one declines. The first part of getting uncomfortable is looking at the present situation and the root causes of the problem.

  • Did mom or dad assume you would be the sole caregiver and take over all the responsibilities without asking you?
  • Did you give your time without really realizing what might be involved while the care needs of your loved one increased in time and the complexity of the work to be done?

If your answer to both of these questions is yes, you are in good company. Families don’t have these critical conversations because participation is assumed.

Thinking of Caregiving As a Job

So let’s compare caregiving responsibilities to a job. First, caregiving is a job regardless of whether you choose it or caregiving chooses you.

Think of your day job that provides you with income. If you like your job, there are likely parts you enjoy very much and others that are okay.

For most people who love their work, there is a sense of curiosity and problem solving so that the workday might pass quickly because you enjoy the tasks. Let’s add to this job enjoyment by having a sense of purpose.

As if you are making something better, improving something, or feeling that what you are doing has value. Caring for aging parents has this component. Usually, the one thing that keeps adult children or a spouse as the primary caregiver for a very long time or longer than may be good.

But by then, burnout, exhaustion, and health problems happen along the way when caregivers give up parts of their lives because of the time requirement of caregiving activities. And then, caregivers ask: “what about me, my life, my job and career, and my family? Where is all of this going?”

Family caregivers eventually reach the fork in the road where it’s time to look at other options or reach the dead end where involvement has to end for their health and well-being.

So part of feeling uncomfortable is looking at your contribution to the issues or problems in your care relationship.

  • Gather the facts.
  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did I contribute?
  • What are the impacts of making changes?
  • What are the options for change?

Answering these questions may be hard to examine because these are the issues families should discuss—but don’t—when care needs begin. When these conversations are delayed by months or years, the topics are more difficult because expectations have been in place.

This is the challenge of balancing relationships between the person who needs care and the person who provides the care. The struggle for caregivers, specifically caregiver regrets, is balancing values, duty, and personal responsibility.

Tips for juggling work and caregiving are on Episode 22 of The Caring Generation Podcasts. 

Balancing Caregiver Options

Caregivers accept the job of caring for loved ones. Subsequently, they struggle with giving up portions of their lives for 5, 10, 20, or more years.

These tradeoffs pose significant choices that may no longer be available when caregiving responsibilities end. For example, if you give up your job, you may need to go back to school to gain skills or start at a lower position than when you left the job market to gain experience.

So, in this case, investigate all the options for you to move ahead. Investigate possibilities to find outside help to care for loved ones so that care will be available for a loved one if you choose to end your caregiving duties.

Specific to this, become aware of all options for a loved one to receive care. To gain this understanding, it may be necessary to consult a caregiving expert, an elder law, an estate planning or probate attorney, and a CPA or financial planner.

In my personal and professional experience, caregiving takes a 3-pronged approach. Care planning includes managing health, the legal aspects of decision-making for health and money, and the financial aspects of paying for care.

By examining options at the same time, you can take a big-picture view of the future. This is in contrast to dealing with one emergency or unexpected event at a time and only looking at solutions for today that may prevent you from having more options later.

In addition, gaining knowledge and planning in caregiving provides more opportunities for loved ones to get the care they want and need.

Deciding What You Value In Life

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable can also include not having enough information, feeling that there are too many options, or feeling so stuck that you have difficulty making a decision about caring for elderly parents.

There are two parts to this decision-making process.

  • The first is identifying the care receiver’s short- and long-term care needs.
  • The second is caregivers deciding what they value in life—n a sense, what caregivers want more of and what they want less of.

Obviously, there are practical considerations for each person. For example, the health of the person who needs care is likely to worsen and necessitate more care.

Depending on their age, the caregiver may be starting out in life, have a well-established career, or be retired. So there are life-stage decisions to make.

3 Starting Somewhere

Number three for steps to managing caregiver regrets is starting somewhere. You have to put a stake in the ground and have a starting point to move ahead.

Moving ahead and making progress can involve making mistakes or revising plans due to unexpected situations. Caregivers see others enjoying their lives and feel envious.

You may get angry at a brother or sister who refuses to help out or with friends who cannot understand or empathize with your care situation. Likewise, anger or frustration can result if you are a caregiver who has become isolated or lonely because of your care situation.

4 Avoiding Life Comparisons

caregiver regretsSo specific to starting somewhere, it’s also essential to take steps to avoid comparing your life situation to others.

While this can be hard because it’s tempting—especially if you spend time on social media watching everyone post the best parts of their lives—there may be a lot more behind the scenes that you don’t see.

Life isn’t perfect. It’s messy.

An example of a person one might envy is someone who appears to have achieved a lot in their life, like an athlete, actor or actress, famous author, painter, or someone else. Yet, while you may see the result of their success, you don’t see aspects of their entire life.

For example, life as a child, persistence past 1,000 rejections, struggling to pay the bills, and all the steps it took to get from there to where the person is today. Part of starting somewhere and moving ahead is enjoying the progress as forward and backward, and up and down as it may be.

Experiencing Caregiver Pressures

If you are experiencing caregiver regrets, likely, you are also experiencing emotional pressure, stress, guilt, and peer pressure. Maybe you are being shamed by friends and family when you complain about the struggles of being a caregiver. People who shame you will never understand your experience until they become a caregiver.

This lack of understanding or empathy compares to family caregivers having difficulty understanding what it’s like for an aging parent to be eighty years old and suffering from many health problems. It can be difficult to understand and empathize until you’re in another person’s situation.

Caregivers face economic pressure—the pressure to continue working to support their family and pay for the care of elderly parents. Or the pressure to give up your job to become a 24/7 caregiver. When you get to the point where you feel you have no life, no career, and no friends, you may feel stuck.

You become stuck in a routine that goes on daily, week after week, and year after year. As a result, you become uncertain of the steps to change, and the discomfort of this life becomes comfortable.

There are times when being realistic about a parent’s health can help family caregivers move past feeling stuck. Knowing that the situation may advance in severity and time may be the information needed to help you create a plan for change.

Becoming comfortable with misery or suffering can be scary when you think about a future of remaining isolated, lonely, stressed, or unhappy. You may even believe the effort required to get your life back is too much.

You don’t have the mental energy or the physical strength. Think again. Know that you have what it takes if you are willing to be the change in your life. All you need is hope, inspiration, persistence, and self-motivation.

5 Creating a List of What You Want

Create a list of what you want more of in your life and what you want less of so that you can put that stake in the ground. On one side of the paper, list things you want to do and enjoy—things you don’t want to live without.

The other column on that paper lists things you want less of—realizing that this can include poor health and time spent in care activities. Making a list and writing it down makes a list real and helps you identify areas for focus.

Setting a stake in the ground and taking action helps you look at what steps you must take. Through this experience, you may find that things you thought you wanted or could not live without are not as necessary, so they move to the other side of the list.

Or there may be things that you want that were listed but are not accurate. For example, maybe you were looking at a specific job title.

But when you researched and applied for this job—and completed a couple of interviews, you realize it’s not a good fit. So as you see, all of this is a work in progress.

Realize that avoiding caregiver regrets requires progress. You must take action to create change to reach your goals.

There’s no other way. So what are you waiting for? No life, no career, no job. Where will you begin today?

Receiving Rejections to Receive a Yes

Let’s say that you are looking for a job. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 50. There will be similar challenges.

Not enough experience or too much experience. The job description is perfect, but the industry or business segment isn’t something you find of interest.

There are many considerations in finding a position where you can stay for a while, build your skills, and be promoted. Alternatively, on the other hand, taking an entry-level position where you can gain skills may be the best option.

One hundred doors may shut in your face. Thanks for applying, but your skills don’t match our needs.  Thanks for applying, but we hired a candidate with skills that more closely matched the position.

It can take 100 or 1000 “nos” to get to one “yes.”

But when you get to the yes, the journey will have been worth the effort. Each interview you have is an opportunity to work on your communication and interviewing skills. Keep moving forward, whether to find a job, make new friends, or identify new activities of interest.

Rather than fearing failure or rejection—fear regret. That job you didn’t apply for, that friend who invited you to coffee, but you said no—are all lost opportunities.

Embracing Persistent Habits

Embracing persistent habits is essential for getting a job, building a career, saving money, supporting a family, enjoying life, and making new friends. When you know what you value and want in your life, keep that reason behind all you do.

You are looking for a new job so that you can be financially independent and healthy. You want to re-establishing old friendships because these people were part of your life before caregiving, and you want them in your life again.

Don’t be afraid to start again each time there is a setback. More importantly, keep looking for solutions and answers to every setback.

Make a list of your “whys” and look at the list every morning when you wake up and before you go to sleep at night. Why do you want to do this or that?

  • Find ways to motivate yourself.
  • Schedule daily time to work on your goals.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others who you think have it easier.
  • Compete with yourself. Do more tomorrow than you did today and more the next day.
  • Stretch to learn new skills.
  • Embrace a growth mindset that doesn’t limit your opportunities.

Realize that progress is good even if you haven’t quite reached the destination. Success rarely happens overnight but in small, consistent steps.

Specific progress will help you arrive where you want to be. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you don’t start by running 5 or 10 miles.

You start by running a few blocks. Then a mile. Then several miles, and you are ready by the time it’s marathon time.

Caring for elderly parents is a learning process. Making the time to research and create a plan to care for parents is important and moves care situations forward. 

Unfortunately, we forget that some of the bigger goals we set for ourselves take time. The time we devote to investigation, practice, and implementation helps us gain new skills, meet new people, and enrich our lives in many ways that we don’t realize.

Recognizing Accomplishments

To find evidence of accomplishments in your life, what brings you pride? Finishing school? Having children? Building a career?

It’s likely that none of these accomplishments happened overnight. Somewhere along the way, there may have been challenges or uncertainties. But, with the support of family, friends, or others, you made it.

Each day be grateful for what you have. Pray for yourself and others. Believe that you have good things and people in your life so that these things materialize.

Instead of becoming resentful or having caregiver regrets, maintain hope and positivity. Find ways to play in your life so that work is enjoyable and relationships with others are empowering and positive.

Similar to the example of snapping a rubber band on your wrist to give you a pause and a reset, we all need tools in our lives that we use to move ahead. Everyone has hopes and dreams.

Every day people struggle. Every day people make their dreams and goals become a reality.

family caregiver support programsYou have the power to find a job you love and have loving relationships with people in your life. So believe, make a plan, and persist.

Do not fear failure but fear having regrets about what you could have done. Move past hundreds or thousands of nos to get to that “yes” that brings success.

Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.

©2022 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved


About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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