Guilt and dementia

I always find myself saying to people that guilt is a wasted emotion. It’s there to tell us not to do something again … to learn from our mistakes and to spare us from the dreaded heart-wrenching, fierce knot-in stomach feeling that can immobilise our whole bodies. 

But what about when guilt becomes a daily occurrence? 

Being a caregiver for someone with a long-term illness, such as dementia can cause an abundance of guilt.

Sometimes it may not seem to ease….caregiving for someone with a long-term illness has caused me to feel a mass amount of guilt over the years. I feel guilty at the sight of someone in so much distress. I feel guilty because nothing I do seems to make a difference and I also feel guilty when I try and do something to make myself feel better.

So how can we defeat guilt? 

I guess as humans we can’t totally as it is something built into us but I have learnt some strategies that might help reduce the pain.

Recognising guilt 

I often find verbalising (internally or externally) where the guilt has arisen from helps to establish the actions and thoughts that have lead to the feeling of guilt.

It may be “I really wish I wasn’t dealing with this … I really wish I could cut this part of my life off”
Or “I really wish you could just understand for one moment how I feel”

These are fairly common reactions when you’re caregiving and it really helps to release a lot of unsettled pressure when it’s expressed….whether that’s writing it down or telling another person.

Show yourself compassion

Everyone has blue days and that’s totally ok.

Some days we feel we can fight for world domination, others we can’t bear to peer out from beneath the duvet …. and that is also OK!

Everyone needs downtime, especially when caregiving. To remember we are not robots and that we hurt and we should allow ourselves time to recuperate.

Ask for support 

As a caregiver, it can be exceptionally tough to ask friends and family for support. Sometimes in the fear that “they don’t understand what I’m going through” or because we want to protect them from how we are really feeling …. but sometimes having someone to listen can feel like a weight has lifted into the sky.

There are also some fantastic support groups around where you can have the opportunity to share your experiences with others, who may well be experiencing similar.

There are also carers’ forums where if you don’t feel like face-to-face conversations then these platforms offer a safe space to share your experiences. If you type in dementia and guilt, lots of features appear…so please try and know that you are not alone.

Reward yourself

If you have a particularly tough day then allow yourself a reward to ease the pain. This could be running a bath, eating a crate load of galaxy chocolate or watching a sunset. Whatever it may be, it may help to recover from the emotional distressing feeling of guilt.

To all caregivers, you are HEROES! Never forget that!

x Rebecca x

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