Do you have feelings of guilt?

Ben Budd
June 9, 2022
December 7, 2022

Can you hear yourself saying or thinking the following?

That’s right, that is guilt talking.

What is guilt?

Generally guilt is defined as an emotion which people can feel after doing something wrong – whether this is done intentionally or accidentally. Guilt often relates to a person’s moral code which has developed over many years.

The trigger points which create feelings of guilt for carers of people with dementia are often:

Why do we need to tackle guilt?

Guilt can be so overwhelming for a family carer that it can cause physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, stomach pain, stomach upsets and nausea (or other digestive issues), as well as muscle tension, headaches and migraines, tearfulness… to name a few!!

It can also create feelings of self-doubt, decreased self-esteem, and shame.

What can you do to help yourself?

It is little wonder guilt has been shown to be associated with depression in the general population and is a common experience of caregivers.

To help you to re-calibrate your feelings, and to think about whether you are carrying an unhealthy amount of guilt, it is important to ask yourself a number of questions. These may include:

  1. Is this a fact, or just my opinion?
  2. Why am I so certain of the conclusion I have reached?
  3. What assumptions am I making?
  4. What evidence is there to support / dispute my thinking?
  5. Am I accepting responsibility for something that is not my fault or within my control?
  6. What advice would I give to a friend who was feeling this way?
  7. What are some other ways of viewing this situation that might be kinder, more realistic or more helpful to me?
  8. How will I feel about this in 1 week / 1 month / 1 year?
  9. What can I do to cope and look after myself now?

By asking yourself these questions, you may find that you start to show yourself more self-compassion and we hope that it will help you to see you are probably doing a fantastic job during some exceptionally difficult times.

We would also invite you to give this list of questions to someone who you know, and ask them to go through them one by one with you.

You are not alone

Support groups and forums can also help you to recognise that other carers have similar feelings and are challenged by similar issues. This can help you to realise that ‘Other carers seem to manage better than me’ just isn’t true and that is it possible to become kinder to yourself, more realistic and able to cope.

Lissy Edwards  is an experienced speech and language therapist who has worked extensively in the NHS specialising in the rehabilitation of people with brain injury, stroke and other long-term conditions such as dementia. She is highly skilled in the assessment and management of swallowing and communication difficulties and enjoys working in collaboration with patients and families.

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