Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Health

LeBlanc: Surviving caregiver guilt


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There's not a caregiver out there who doesn't experience bouts of guilt and self-doubt. Many of us find ourselves drowning in it! What's important to know is that this is simply human nature. We all deal with insecurity when we take on the noble task of being responsible for other human beings. But it's significant that we learn how to wade through this timidity and concentrate on what's taking place right here in front of us, one day at a time.

We're all going to question ourselves over and over. Even after our loved ones are gone, we're going to wonder, "Well, maybe if I had done this," or, "Only if I had known about doing it that way."

There is something called "survival guilt." If you're the only survivor of a car crash you might find yourself filled with sorrow, feeling guilty that you're still alive. In like manner, when your loved one passes away, you might even feel selfish for still being here.

Being overwhelmed by these powerful emotions is the last thing your loved one would wish upon you. In fact, I was amazed at how my father became so apologetic in the latter stage of his disease. He would endlessly thank me for caring for him, even if he didn't truly realize who I was. I have often wondered where this man who was suddenly being so grateful had been hiding during the earlier years when I was pulling my hair out in frustration!

Push through the guilt and concentrate on keeping your loved one safe and calm. Follow that innersole, that gut feeling is usually right.

There's a saying I often use when teaching dementia care, "If you meet a dementia patient, you've only met one dementia patient." Not all dementia patients experience the same symptoms. As caregivers, we know our loved ones better than anyone else; even better than they know themselves. So when those instincts start kicking in, they're probably correct.

I don't know of any sure way to block the guilt. You'll just have to do your best and focus on what to do next. If what you're doing is working, stick with it.

And for heaven's sake, don't feel guilty about taking any respite for yourself! If anything, this will be good for both of you. Hopefully you'll come back fully rested and ready to take on the world again.

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