Feelings of guilt typically occur when a person believes that they have done something wrong or have violated a certain personal code of conduct. For a multitude of reasons, it is rare to find a family caregiver that is not consumed with guilt about something. Some guilty feelings can be avoided by accepting some basic realities and taking positive action steps.
Some common sources stem from the desire to be the perfect caregiver and/or the “I should be able to do more” syndrome. It might seem like a “36 Hour Day” at times but it’s not. Even if the days were twice as long, it would still not be long enough to do all the things that we think should be done. Are all of these tasks really necessary? Focus on the ones that are truly a priority.
Caregivers experience feelings of guilt about making mistakes, losing their patience, hating the tasks of caregiving or spending any time away from loved-ones. They feel guilty about their decisions. And when that time comes for a decision involving placement, the intensity of guilt can be emotionally overwhelming.
Seldom are these decisions made without a great deal of consideration. Writing down all the reasons allows families to review them later when feelings of guilt arise or they start second-guessing those choices. Usually it is the totality of many concerns that led them to make these difficult conclusions in the first place.
Actions steps for coping begin with modifying what can be changed– including your own personal expectations. Find the right person to share your feelings with. This is often another caregiver or professional that can offer honest empathy, support and direction. Give yourself permission to be “good enough” and recognize that every day you can only do the best you can do – that day.
The only perfect, patient and loving family caregiver is either going to be superman, superwoman or the person that is not taking care of anyone. Being human, related and living with dementia in your home 24 hours a day, is more difficult. Even without super powers, a caregiver is still a super hero. They do it every day…with love.
By Pam Kovacs Johnson