Caregiving of any kind can feel like a thankless job, but caring for someone with dementia can be particularly taxing. Feeling frustration from the trials of dealing with this disease is normal; however, regularly experiencing intense levels of frustration can negatively impact your health and the health of those receiving your care. It is important to take preventative measures to manage your emotions before you feel overwhelmed.
There are six common unhealthy thought patterns caregivers may experience: overgeneralization, personalizing, labeling, jumping to conclusions, discounting the positive and ‘should’ statements. Here is a thought guide to help you overcome each of them:
1) Overgeneralization – Taking one bad experience and applying it to all experiences.
Ex: Heavy traffic results in caregiver & care recipient missing doctor’s appointment.
Immediate thought: ‘Nothing ever goes right!!’
Adaptive thought: ‘Things happen. Next time we’ll leave much earlier to account for unforeseen traffic.’
2) Personalization – Assuming blame for things that are beyond your control.
Ex. Loved one must undergo surgery.
Immediate thought: ‘This wouldn’t have happened if I were a better caregiver!’
Adaptive thought: ‘I did my best to care for my loved one. Their surgery is a result of their condition, not my care.’
3) Labeling – Identifying an individual based on one characteristic or action.
Ex. A sibling forgets to pick up something for caregiver once.
Immediate thought: They’re too forgetful to do anything useful!
Adaptive thought: I know they’re stressed like I am. Next time I’ll remind them again.
4) Jumping to Conclusions – Making assumptions before knowing the full situation.
Ex. Caregiver hasn’t received a call back from the doctor yet.
Immediate thought: They’re screening my calls and avoiding me!
Adaptive thought: Maybe they’re busy with other patients and didn’t get a chance to return my call, or the results haven’t come in yet. I’ll follow up again.
5) Discounting the Positive – Overlooking the positive moments to focus on the negative.
Ex. Someone compliments the care you give to your loved one.
Immediate thought: Anyone could do what I do for my loved one. My care isn’t special.
Adaptive thought: Caregiving is a difficult responsibility, but I do a good job.
6) “Should” statements – Feeling conflicted between what you want to do and what you feel you “should” do.
Ex. You want to go see a show tonight.
Immediate thought: I want to go, but I shouldn’t. My loved one might need me.
Adaptive thought: It’s okay for me to enjoy myself occasionally. I’ll arrange for someone to check on my loved one.
Study these thought strategies and save them in your toolbox so you’ll be prepared the next time you feel frustration creeping up.