Improve and adapt. Don’t feel guilty.

I wanted to speak briefly on the touchy subject of guilt as it pertains to caring for a loved one.

In the clinical environment, when I’m in the position of having frank conversations with families about the inevitable trajectory of their love-one’s condition, one of the hurdles most frequently encountered is that of people expressing guilt. As with any opportunity and subsequent journey of personal growth, talking people out of that thought-paradigm isn’t easy.

As I describe in the book, it is my position that it is always OK to admit what you are truly thinking – even if it’s guilty for feeling a particular way. Never any judgement from my side on this topic and nor should there be from anyone else (and if you do encounter that, simply pay them no heed). It is my opinion that you need to be honest with yourself; caregivers especially so as the burden placed upon them is unrelenting.

Selflessness is not an inexhaustible resource and any expectation to the contrary is simply not rooted in reality. Or fairness.

And that’s just it.

It’s OK to admit that it is a burden to have to supervise and care for a parent or older adult. To me, it is not a contradiction to both love someone and be to exhausted, daunted by an unrelenting task and to not like them at the same time. I totally get it. Personal sacrifice and asking for help may seem mortifying but it is a very real part of caring for an older adult (particularly for those with dementia who are healthier and still mobile in body than in mind – and especially so when they use their words to hurt you).

Therefore, part of the opportunity for personal growth during the challenges faced by the transition to caring for someone may be to address and reconcile those feelings of guilt (both out of having to ask for help as well as for any feelings of resentment) with the natural affection you have for your aging loved one. Never easy but very much a worthwhile exercise to work through. You’ll be glad you did.

You’re not alone.

You’re not alone and please know that it is a very real and common position to be in. Nobody will think less of you. It’s the harsh reality of it and, sooner or later, most will be in a similar position. In recognizing you are not alone, as I describe in the book, there is therapy. Try to appreciate those rare moments of lucidity and make the most of any opportunity to laugh along the way.

Never feel guilty for asking for help – and go a step further by planning on creating a support system as early in the process as possible. If you are a caregiver, you’re likely a leader in that person’s care. Therefore, it is a responsibility that you create clear boundaries and mark aside protected time to look after yourself. After all, you are of no use to anyone (and you can’t abdicate your responsibilities) if you’re too far gone to make cogent decisions or to lend a hand whenever necessary.

Improve and adapt. It’s time.

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