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Coping with Caregiver Guilt

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7 Expert Tips for Coping with Caregiver Guilt

Caregiver guilt is an emotion that loving caregivers frequently experience when caring for a parent or other loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia,” says Sam Streater, Program Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“And while memory care experts advise that it is a common emotion, the guilt caregivers often feel is no less painful.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, Alzheimer's gradually takes away the person you know and love. As this happens, you'll mourn for him or her and may experience the different phases of grieving: denial, anger, guilt, sadness, and acceptance. They emphasize that caregivers must remember is that this is a situation over which you have limited control and shouldn’t feel guilty about.

The Many Sides of Caregiver Guilt

The Mayo Clinic®  states that caregiver guilt is a normal emotion and can be felt and expressed in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Guilt over realizing how you treated or judged the person with dementia before knowing what was going on (before diagnosis)
  • Guilt that you are not caregiving as well as you should, or that others do a better job
  • Guilt by the caregiver over feeling resentful, trapped, unloving, or a host of other negative thoughts
  • Guilt for wanting time for yourself
  • Guilt for doing things without your loved one that you once enjoyed together
  • Guilt for not spending more time with them
  • Guilt for wishing it was over
  • Guilt over realizing you can’t do it all and that someday Mom or Dad will require 24/7 professional care in a memory care community

Caregiving experts add that frustration and anger over the loved one’s unfortunate plight often evolves into guilt. You may feel like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, and have the guilty thought, “how much longer can this go on?” Feelings can’t be denied, but they can be changed to some degree by adjusting your perspective. For example, you may feel less frustrated with your loved one’s acting out if you can remind yourself that they are not doing it on purpose, it is part of the disease.

Tips for Coping with Caregiver Guilt

The good news is that there are a variety of things you can do to cope with the guilt and stress of being a caregiver. The blog article “Taking Care of You – Dealing with Caregiver Guilt” and similar articles on coping with caregiver guilt provide authoritative self-care advice that can help primary caregivers and their supporting family members. For example:

  1. Join a support group and identify other helpful community resources – You’ll find much needed assistance as well as comfort in knowing others are experiencing the very same feelings.
  2. Participate in the AlzConnected® online support forum – share experiences and coping strategies.
  3. Live in the moment – Focus on any positives during the day. Also, it is OK to laugh with your loved one as humor is now considered therapeutic for both of you.
  4. Let go of unrealistic expectations – You can’t do it all and no one is expecting you to; you have a life to live, too.
  5. Utilize respite care for your loved one – Give yourself a day or a weekend free from being a caregiver so you can enjoy the things that are important in your life.
  6. Use relaxation techniques – The following techniques can also help you to relieve caregiver guilt and stress:  
    • Visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm)
    • Meditation (which can be as simple as dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts
    • Breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths)
    • Progressive muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end)
  7. Remember, it’s OK to let go – When you are no longer able to give your loved one the care they need at home, it is nothing to feel guilty about. You are simply putting their well-being and best interests first. And It is just a different way of caring that you can still be involved in.

In addition to these tips, Mayo Clinic dementia expert, Angela Lunde, offers her own excellent insight and advice to caregivers on ways they can free themselves of their unwarranted guilt in her article, “Tips for caregivers to help lessen the guilt.

Sam adds, “By understanding that caregiver guilt is a perfectly normal emotion and taking positive steps to minimize the emotional pain it can cause, you can be happier in your own life while also being a more effective caregiver.”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our article on caregiver guilt, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

We also invite you to read our timely articles on current caregiver and memory care topics posted on our website.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.