As a dementia caregiver, I lived under a perpetual load of guilt. It was not true, rational guilt that came from wrongdoing, but rather a constant vague feeling of unrest that continually ate at me. No matter how good a job I was doing, I never felt like I was doing enough. No matter how well I handled a situation, I always felt like I could have done better. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had the unrealistic idea that if I did everything right, Mom and Dad would get better. When this didn’t happen, when they continued to slip away from me, I wrestled with the feeling that they were losing the battle and that somehow it was my fault.
For several years I helped facilitate a caregiver support group at my church, and I discovered that I was not alone in my struggle with guilt. Most of the members of the group dealt with the same issue. We knew that, for the most part, our feelings were unfounded and that we were doing the best job possible under the circumstances. We focused a lot of attention on encouraging each other and finding ways to overcome this guilt. (more…)