Caregiving is never a walk in the park, and in the process of caring for a loved one or ward with dementia, caregivers may find themselves dealing with a common, underlying theme – blame. When talking to caregivers of persons with dementia, it is common to hear them remark about their loved ones being not understanding enough or blaming them for being ungrateful. At the root of it all, they feel that their loved ones with dementia do not show appreciation of their efforts and sacrifice.
From the point of view of the caregiver, this frustration is perfectly understandable. It is both physically and emotionally demanding to care for someone in need, especially so for a person dealing with a condition that makes you both forgetful and volatile. What’s more, persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias lose some of their social and communication skills, thus making it more difficult for them to articulate their true feelings and thoughts. So for persons living with dementia, saying things like “please” and “thank you” may be a stretch.
According to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) site, the tendency to blame – either oneself or others – is a coping mechanism for handling a large amount of caregiving stress. The chronic and irreversible nature of dementia means that the more frenetically you throw yourself into caring for your loved one, the more likely you are to feel helpless, alone, and frustrated. Finger-pointing from other family members and friends accusing you of showing inadequate care and even from your ward herself will simply add on to your mountain of guilt. So how can dementia caregivers handle blame and avoid blaming others?
Pointing The Fingers Back
The act of assigning blame to another person is to protect yourself from harm while denying the feelings you do not want to feel. The first step to stop blaming anyone else – yourself included – is to acknowledge that you are exhibiting blaming behaviour in the course of caregiving. Ask yourself these questions: Do I tend to tell others how and why they are wrong? When faced with obstacles, do I look for someone or something to put the blame on? Answering yes to these questions will reflect your willingness to look at your performance as a caregiver honestly – a key part of addressing the issue and making improvements. If blaming has become a bad habit for you, look inwardly and focus on how you can make things better, rather than what the person with dementia can work on.
Respond With Understanding
It is a natural reaction to either become overly defensive or even attack another person when blamed. You’ve just spent your time and energy attending to the needs of your loved one, so the last thing your tired body and mind needs is to be accused of incompetence. But rather than fighting fire with fire, don’t get sucked into the blame game. Try to empathise with your accusers and sense the fear and sadness behind it. Chances are, they share your concern and frustration for the person with dementia, and it is this frustration that is clouding their sense of logic.
Know Your Limits
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of blaming yourself for the things that are beyond you. All caregivers need to come to terms that there will be matters that are out of the hands – especially when the disease they’re fighting against is so demanding. Instead of beating yourself up over what could be done more or better, turn your attention to your ward’s present efforts toward recovery. Likewise, instead of putting blame on your ward, focus on creating a new you; one with a different perspective and new ways of communication..