I feel so guilty that my loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease! How can I get help with the guilt I feel?
First, you must realize what the definition of guilt really is. That helps frame this discussion. Guilt is defined as “being responsible for the commission of an offense; remorseful awareness of having done something wrong; or self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.” Quite often, we assign guilt when we shouldn’t. If you are feeling guilty while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you need to “let it go.” In other words, put it into perspective and give yourself a break. Don’t let others who might try to make you feel guilty succeed. Rise above it and take control over how you respond. You can’t control everything you want to but you can control your responses. In brief, that’s life. Guilt can be very destructive and play havoc with your internal mechanisms. This, in turn, can make you less effective in everything else you do. It can be a very harmful cycle — if you let it. Think about what you are doing if you are a caregiver. In brief, it’s this: You’re doing the very best you can. Your best is good enough. Remember, too, that you can always be your loved one’s advocate. If he or she is in a facility such as a nursing home, you (and your loved one) still have a multitude of rights and powers. Educate yourself about them and use them to your advantage. One good suggestion is to record your feelings in a journal. This will make it easier to reflect on what you’re doing over time, and then make adjustments. Most of the time, you will realize you have no reason to feel guilty. You might have siblings, other family members or family friends who try to make you feel guilty. Don’t let them do it. You can’t control what they are doing, but remember: You can control your responses, so be determined that you aren’t going to let them get to you. After all, you are the one who has stepped to the plate and volunteered — possibly even as the primary caregiver. You didn’t ask for your loved one to have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. But you have chosen to help. That matters. Let go of the guilt. Give yourself a break. Here’s a good saying to remember: GUILT: Give Undeserved Illusions Little Thought. Here is something, however, that you should give a lot of thought to: “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It will help you deal with any feelings of guilt, as well as with dozens of other subtopics.