Are you a care partner? When a loved one is living with dementia or other terminal illness, you might feel that you should be able to provide for all of their care needs yourself. When this is not possible, as it very often isn’t, it is very common to experience feelings of guilt.
By Polly Logan
However, being burdened by guilt is neither healthy nor productive and may actually prevent you from making the most of the remaining time with your loved one. While letting go of guilt is often easier said than done, here are some suggestions.
1. Cut Out Comparisons
Believe it: not everyone is meant to provide hands-on care. We are all different and have our own unique skills and strengths, so try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Not everyone is born to be a professional athlete, surgeon, or middle-school teacher. Similarly, not everyone is suited to be a full-time care partner.
It is okay to recognize that you may not be meant for helping in this manner, whatever the reason, and to let it go. There are many other ways for you to stay involved in your loved one’s life than by providing all of their direct care yourself.
2. Build a Team
Instead, focus on building a team that can help support your loved one. Your team might consist of facility staff, paid in-home staff, volunteers, other family members, or a combination of these.
A team helps to lighten the load by sharing care responsibilities, but consider that there may be added benefits for your loved one as well. A variety of supporting individuals provides a diversity of strengths, skills, and perspectives. Also, your loved one may feel more secure being supported by several different individuals, rather than relying on only one person for all their needs.
Remember, the journey is often more of a marathon than a sprint, and many different types and layers of support will be needed along the way.
3. Concentrate on Contributions
Even if you aren’t the primary hands-on care partner for your loved one, you can still use your individual strengths and gifts to help them. If you play a musical instrument and can bring it to them, play music for your loved one. Tell them familiar stories. Give them a hand massage with their favorite scented lotion.
The gift of your time and presence is incredibly valuable. Even if you truly aren’t able to spend a lot of time with them, remember that it is often the quality of the time, not the quantity, that matters most. Provide them your attention with as few distractions as possible. Especially as a loved one is more progressed in their illness, visits that are short and sweet can be just as meaningful.
If you live far from your loved one and aren’t able to visit as often as you would like, consider other ways of connecting. Phone calls, recorded messages, video chat, handwritten letters or cards, meaningful gifts, or photos can all be valuable ways to connect.
Guilt is a common and normal emotion when you are not able to provide all of the care for your loved one. By not comparing yourself to others, building a team of care partners, and focusing on what you are able to contribute to their care. You can begin to let go of the guilt and find the moments of joy with your loved one.