Caregiver Corner: Coping with Guilt

Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, Director of Dementia Care Services

All caregivers experience guilt at some point, either about “the big picture,” or a tiny, forgotten detail. As a follow up to recent topics on stress, let’s examine one of the greatest causes of stress: guilt feelings. Much of the information here is adapted from information available at www.coping.org website by James Messina, PhD and Constance Messina, PhD (used with permission).

 Whether your feel regret from your real or imagined misdeeds, or feel loss and shame for not having done or said something, guilt can result in: oversensitivity; immobilization; changed personality, and; problems that seem insurmountable. Analysis of guilt helps minimize stress.  Ask yourself if a problem can be solved or minimized by eliminating the guilt. Some steps suggested at www.coping.org include:

  • Redefine your problem with the absence of guilt as an issue.

  • If the problem is really someone else’s, give the problem back to the person to solve and to deal with.

  • You must confront the real or imagined guilt or fear of guilt preventing you from either handing the problem back to someone else or handling the problem on your own.

Affirm for yourself that:

a) YOU deserve to solve this problem,

b) YOU deserve to be good to yourself, and

c) YOU deserve to have others be good to you, too!

Consider solutions you once dismissed because they made you feel even guiltier.

Coping with guilt might help you accept help from family or friends, or consider professional help or services so you can continue to be an effective caregiver.

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