Alzheimer’s Caregiver Guilt
Alzheimer's Caregiver and Guilt
1 of the worst emotions of an Alzheimer’s caregiver – “Guilt”. (Transcribed from video)
Guilt may be the most annoying of the “seven deadly emotions” of Alzheimer’s care-giving. It’s right up there with resentment, worry, fear, anger, loneliness, and grief. This podcast episode is based on the original article written by Paul Spencer Scott. One of the worst emotions of Alzheimer’s – guilt. Guilt is especially bothersome because it tends to be the least rooted in reality. There’s often no reason to feel guilty but we feel it just the same. Guilt usually stems from caring so much we want the best for the person living with Alzheimer’s. We want things to go well, and we want them to be safe, happy, involved, free of pain and worry. Our intentions are good. We are good but inherently and there’s lofty aspirations is the nagging feeling of never quite being good enough.
Here are five examples of caregiver guilt:
Example 1: Caregiver Guilt for what I’m not doing. I should be entertaining her more, I should cook healthier meals, I ought to get us both exercising.
Example 2: Guilt for what I’m doing. I feel bad when I take my husband to the day center but I really need a break, I shouldn’t rush mom through her a shower like that, I ought to be able to handle this without whining after all I love this person.
Example 3: Caregiver Guilt for not doing enough after years of struggles. One caregiver agonized over whether it was time to place her diabetic and demanding mom who was obese and becoming incontinent into a care facility when her mom needed an amputation. The discharge planner and doctors agreed there was little question that this would be best a good option. It worked out well all the way around but the caregiver nevertheless felt she had let her mother down. She said I feel like there’s more that I could have done.
Example 4: Guilt for being away. Long distance caregivers feel their cash and phone support isn’t enough. Those who use respite care are prick with feelings of insufficiency for not being there 24/7.
Example 5: Caregiver Guilt for being happy. Well I’m in a good mood today. Oh wait, I shouldn’t be because my partner has Alzheimer’s. Why am I the healthy one and he’s in such terrible shape?
What you should know about guilt.
As the examples above illustrate, there’s no end to the opportunities for guilt in the realm of Alzheimer’s care-giving. You can not ignore this persistent emotion whispering in your ear no matter what you do or don’t do. And you can’t will it away. Guilt simply is the way it is. Occasionally guilt can be a productive emotion. Call it good guilt – the nagging voice in our heads that causes us to examine our behavior and decide whether it changes. If you feel guilty because you were impatient with your loved one for example, it’s like a little poke reminding you to try harder or take a deep breath next time. Are you (feeling) guilty you don’t go to the gym? Yes, that would have been good for you and what would make that possible?
Unfortunately, most of what eats us alive is what I call bad guilt. Bad guilt has no constructive underbelly. Bad guilt makes you feel bad about a situation that you can’t help. For example with caregiver guilt, you have to move your parent to rehab or in some circumstances a memory care facility or you feel bad about something that is actually positive for you. You’ve hired some home care so they’re more hands on deck. Bad guilt causes us to beat ourselves up and this is often for reasons that are unrealistic and counterproductive. Not to mention at all that’s doing and self-flagellation wastes productive mental energy.
What can help you overcome caregiver guilt?
- Beware the red flags “ought to”, “should”, “could have”, “always”, “never”. Ban them from your vocabulary. The warnings that you’re setting the bar too high when you hear yourself saying (I should flick your forefinger against your wrist as a reminder) “always” and “never” are toxic because they set up for future guilt. “I’ll never put you in a home”, “I’ll always be here”. So don’t promise things that you can’t be 100% certain of, like 100 percent of most of the things in your life.
- Don’t discount yourself ironically selfless. People tend to feel proportionally more guilt because they work so hard aspiring to an ideal of doing things for others. And so they tend to ignore the inconvenient reality that they have to look after themselves all the more. They may even forget that they too, deserve extras and shortcuts and breaks when they finally get around to the slow bath or a lunch with friends. It feels as alien as it does great. Trust your needs, your perceptions, your values in this situation.
- Aim to be a B+ caregiver. Straight A’s are for grad students not mere mortals with houses to keep, relationships to tend, jobs to do and other responsibilities to uphold. No caregiver anticipates every fall or prevents every bedsore. Tempers boil, germs sneak in. bills slip through the cracks. In other words, life happens. So no matter how much you love the person or feel you owe him or her, you’ll all be happier if you lower your standards to the level of real life by aiming for the “B”. You’ll achieve good marks consistently and occasionally surprise yourself with an “A”, rather than constantly feeling like you’re missing the mark.
- Remind yourself of your true goals. Ideally you should be striving to give your loved one a secure life, free of worry and pain, while maintaining your own quality of life and health. Don’t beat yourself up over the small stuff.
- Steer clear of comparisons. We feel guilt when we feel that we’re falling short of some imagined ideal. Where do these ideas come from? Often from our own heads. We compare ourselves to someone else without stopping to calculate what their stress levels or support situation is like without allowing that every case is different.
- See it as a sign of strength not weakness to ask and enlist help. Strong, smart people know that Alzheimer’s care is not a task for the isolated in solitary. The more you can delegate and share, the better life feels. Only those with too much ignorance of reality think they can do it by themselves.
- Get the doctor or the therapist’s opinion. There’s nothing like hearing from a neutral third party, “no you have nothing to feel guilty about in this situation” because often we don’t believe the obvious until we hear it from a trusted neutral source.
As found on Youtube