No More Guilt as you Care for Someone with Alzheimer's Disease
By Iona K Liste
As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, you will feel a wide range of emotions. Painful feelings, such as anger and sadness can be natural responses to the difficult circumstances that the disease can produce. Guilt, however, can be destructive, making us feel tired, weak and immobile. No matter how much you do, there may be times when you tell yourself that you could do better.
Acknowledge these feelings of guilt. Without recognition, guilt can be a destructive force. Know where these feelings originate, and be aware that you are alone in having such thoughts. Develop a more positive way of thinking about your role.
Sources of guilt include the following:
Other caregivers manage better than you. Meeting other caregivers regularly will lead you to believe that there is no such thing as perfection as the perfect caregiver. Are you being realistic about how much you can achieve? Support between caregivers brings reassurance.
There were difficulties between yourself and your loved one before the diagnosis. There was no way you could have known your loved one had dementia; it was a situation that neither of you understood then. Focus on what you do now, and how to meet present and future needs.
You sometimes have negative feelings for the person you care for. These feelings can be especially difficult. You cannot help your feelings for the person, but you can control how you deal with them. Talk them though with a trusted person and get a perspective on your emotions. Remember that by caregiving, you are giving a great deal. You may sometimes lose your temper or become irritated. Find a way to express your feelings - talk with a friend or counselor, punch a pillow… and count to ten before reacting. Get additional help. Taking action can make a positive difference.
You want more time to yourself. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries so take time out from the caregiving role occasionally. A break may improve the relationship you have with the person you care for. It is reasonable to want a life for yourself, outside caregiving. Arrange for another person to take over your role for a specified amount of time on a regular basis. You are not indispensable.
You need to arrange that your loved one goes into residential care. This can seem like betrayal, especially if you have promised the person that you would always care of him. Remember that this promise was made in a different situation before you knew the stresses of what was to come. If the person goes into a care home, then you can still be a caregiver - but in a different way.
Moving on from guilt. The caregiving role involves looking after you, not just the person with dementia.
Keeping things to yourself can be damaging to you, and the person you care for, ultimately. Talk through your feelings with a person you feel comfortable with - a good friend, a health professional or a counselor. Your local support group (or virtual support group online) can be invaluable.
Regular breaks from your caregiving role are important. If you cannot manage a vacation, then smaller amounts of 'me-time' can be organized with the help of others. Be aware that you will be a more effective caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s disease when you care for yourself first.
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