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Managing Guilt When a Loved One Has Alzheimer's

Guilt is one of the most prevalent emotions when your loved one has Alzheimer’s. No matter how much you do for your loved one, you can always find something to feel guilty about. Nothing you do ever feels like enough. Personally, I think this is because nothing you do will ever be enough to fix your loved one. Yet, you continue to do as much as possible in an attempt to reach the unattainable goal of doing enough.

You should realize that while you can do anything, you can’t do everything. It’s physically impossible and you will burn yourself out trying. Even if you spent every waking moment at your loved one’s side, you would still find something to feel guilty about. You can’t avoid the guilt. The goal should not be to do anything and everything for your loved one to avoid feeling guilty for something. Instead, your goal should be to do what you can, when you can, and to give yourself grace and empathy for not being able to do it all.

How you talk to yourself matters

Imagine if a good friend confided in you that they felt bad for not doing more for their loved one. Would you chastise your friend for not doing more? Would you say things like, “You should’ve stayed an hour longer,” or “You should’ve done more around the house today”? Probably not, so then why are you saying things like that to yourself? You spend more time with yourself than with anyone else. If you constantly beat yourself up for not doing more, then you will never feel like you are doing enough.

Try being your own best friend

When you are feeling guilty for not doing more, say to yourself, “I did exactly enough today,” or “I did my best today.” Try supporting and encouraging yourself the way you would your best friend. Stop beating yourself up for failing to reach an unattainable goal.

Remind yourself of all the things you have done for your loved one and all the ways you have been there for them. Forgive yourself when you screw up. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Give yourself a break and know that you are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation.

Be realistic and know your limitations

Most likely, your loved one with Alzheimer’s is not your only responsibility in life. If it’s not possible for you to bring your loved one dinner every night, then that’s okay. If you’re not able to be at every doctor’s appointment, then that’s okay. If you can’t be there every morning to help your loved one get dressed, then that’s okay.

It’s important to be realistic about what you’re able to do and when you’re available to do it.

Learn to delegate tasks

Your loved one needs a lot of things done for them, but you don’t always have to be the one doing them. Talk to your family members and care partners to decide who is able to do what. Hire a caregiver or cleaning person. Have groceries or meals delivered. Know that you can’t do it all by yourself and enlist others to help so you don’t have to feel guilty about it.

There is a lot of guilt on this journey and it can consume you if you don’t learn how to manage it. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can.

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