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Dealing with Feelings of Guilt as an Alzheimer's Caregiver

Learn some reasons for, and ways to cope with feelings of guilt that many Alzheimer's caregivers experience at HealthyPlace.

Reasons for, and ways to cope with feelings of guilt that many Alzheimer's caregivers experience.

When caring for a person with Alzheimer's you may feel guilty even when it seems that you are doing the best you can. Such feelings, which are very common among caregivers, may undermine your confidence and self-esteem and make it harder for you to cope. If you can understand more about why you are feeling guilty you may be able to find ways to handle the situation.

There are many different reasons why caregivers feel guilty. Perhaps these feelings arise from your past relationship with the person who now has Alzheimer's, or perhaps they are triggered by a particular situation. Perhaps you are simply expecting too much from yourself.

If you can work out why you are feeling guilty and talk it over with someone who understands, you may be less inclined to blame yourself. You will then be able to think of positive ways forward.

Possible reasons for guilt and suggestions for coping

Mistakes

Caregivers often feel guilty about the occasional oversight or error of judgment. You may need to be reassured that it is all right to make mistakes - no one can get it right all the time. Try to focus on the many things that you do well in caring.

Unrealistic expectations

You may feel guilty because you have somehow failed to match up to your own expectations or the expectations that you believe other people have of you. It is really important to set realistic limits to what you can achieve. Remember that you are a person too and are entitled to have a life of your own.

Unpleasant thoughts and feelings

You may feel ashamed of being embarrassed or disgusted by the behavior of the person with Alzheimer's despite understanding that they cannot help it. You may feel guilty because you sometimes want to walk away from your responsibilities to the person. Or you may sometimes wish the person was dead.

You need to accept that most caregivers have experienced similar thoughts and feelings and that, in the circumstances, they are quite normal. It may help you to talk them through with an understanding professional or good friend.


 


Feelings about the past

It may be that the person who now has Alzheimer's used to criticize you in the past or always made you feel inadequate. This may mean that even now you feel uneasy and afraid that nothing you do can be right. You might feel guilty that you never liked the person and they now seem so helpless. Or you may wish that you had previously made more effort with the relationship.

Some people who feel this way are tempted to push themselves too hard in an attempt to compensate for the past. Try to come to terms with what happened in the past, so that you can leave it behind and deal with the present and future.

Expressing irritation or anger

You may find it hard to forgive yourself for occasionally showing your irritation or anger. Don't blame yourself. Accept that you are living with a high level of stress. You need an outlet for your emotions, time to yourself and support.

Look for ways of expressing natural feelings of frustration safely - such as finding the space and time to have a good shout or to punch a cushion. These techniques help to relieve tension by allowing you to express your pent-up negative feelings. Take advantage of any offers of help so that you are able to relax and unwind away from the person you are looking after.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 25). Dealing with Feelings of Guilt as an Alzheimer's Caregiver, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/caregivers/dealing-with-feelings-of-guilt

Last Updated: May 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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