For Caregivers

Maintaining emotional well-being when taking care of a family member with memory loss from Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

Grappling With Guilt

Adapted from an Article by Dan Kuhn, ACSW

Caring for people with dementia can bring out the best and the worst in the human personality. Compassion, concern and loyalty are just a few of the characteristics of those who are caregivers. At the same time, caregivers often experience great frustration, anger, depression and guilt in response to the stress of caring for those with this chronic illness. Guilt or self-reproach seems to stand out as the feeling experienced most frequently.

Although countless situations can induce guilt, a few examples show common dilemmas:

  • A daughter of someone with Alzheimer’s disease works a full time job in addition to caring for her spouse and three children. She spends Saturdays helping her parents. When leaving she is distraught as her parents want her to spend even more time with them.
  • The husband of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease arranges for her to attend adult day care a few times a week. In her absence he is unable to relax or enjoy himself.
  • The wife of a man with dementia had promised her husband and herself that she would never place him in a nursing home. After several exhausting years of home care, she places him in a long-term care facility.

When guilt becomes a dominant motive in care giving, help is clearly indicated.

It is possible to move beyond feeling guilty. Here are some recommended guilt busters:

  • Acknowledge that you are in a no win situation; the disease will worsen despite your best efforts.
  • Set realistic goals; take pride in offering care and comfort when you cannot offer a cure.
  • Accept your shortcomings; perfectionists are bound to be disappointed.
  • Find your sense of humor and hang on to it; laughter is good medicine.
  • Get some physical exercise; it’s proven to reduce stress.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with a friend; don’t go it alone.
  • Take a break and enlist someone to assist you on a routine basis.
  • Remember that persons with dementia need an emotionally healthy caregiver so take care of yourself as well as you can.