As a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's disease, I feel so guilty all the time. I feel like I should be doing more for my spouse, and I really feel guilty when I spend time away with my friends. What can I do to ease the guilt?
Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Caregiving can be rewarding — but those rewards don't make the role any less challenging. Guilt is a common and normal feeling among Alzheimer's caregivers. You'll likely experience a range of emotions throughout your caregiving journey. Each emotion is important and valid. But it's also important to address those feelings — especially guilt.
Ignoring the guilt can lead to problems with eating, sleeping and concentration and result in unhealthy methods of coping with the stress of caregiving — such as substance abuse.
Take these steps to get past the guilt:
- Allow yourself forgiveness.
- Accept yourself and your limitations, and recognize that you simply can't do it all.
- Seek help from friends and family who offer it.
- Look into local resources, such as respite care.
- Join a support group for other caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, as it can be helpful to talk with someone who's in a situation similar to your own.
Encourage positive thinking and be kind to yourself. Try to avoid your own inner thoughts that start with "I could" or "I should." These tend to be critical, judgmental thoughts and aren't helpful. Remind yourself that your most important job is to take good care of yourself and do your best to support and care for your loved one.
Taking care of yourself means putting your own needs first and includes getting consistent sleep, regular exercise and healthy nutrition. This kind of self-care will allow you to be a better caregiver. Try to live in the moment and seek peace within yourself. You still deserve to enjoy life, laugh and have fun — so don't feel guilty for your own happiness when you're gifted with moments of joy.
June 09, 2020
Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Emotional side of caregiving. Family Caregiver Alliance. https://www.caregiver.org/emotional-side-caregiving. Accessed April 5, 2018.
- Grief and loss as Alzheimer's progresses. Alzheimer's Association. https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-grief-loss.asp. Accessed Jan. 17, 2018.
- Caregiver grief, mourning and guilt. Alzheimer's Association. https://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_griefmournguilt.pdf. Accessed Jan. 17, 2018.
- Lunde AM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 11, 2018.