Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Seven years of guilt

I have found myself many a time gently telling my peers in support group that it’s OK for us to care about ourselves. And that there should be no guilt about placing a loved one in a nursing home. If only I could take my own advice about guilt.

I don’t feel guilty about placing Mom in a nursing home. I really never have. It had its challenges, and I so hoped that she would adjust quickly (she did). But I didn’t think I was doing the wrong thing. It pains me to see so many caregivers regret even considering the idea of a nursing home. They seem to think it is such a betrayal. It often doesn’t help that they are emotionally and physically drained by the caregiving, making it hard to think clearly. I can say right now with full conviction that Patrick should make use of long-term care for me if the need arises. I don’t want him to ruin his health looking after me.

And yet, I still do feel lots of guilt, about Mom and all kinds of other things. Lately, I have been feeling guilty about not attending support group on a regular basis. In the summer, I had conflicts – the occasional round of golf being one of them. This fall, I have experienced an unusual busy spell that has persisted for about two months related to work, business travel and freelance jobs. I have gotten to the weekly meetings about five times since August, I’d estimate. After a long dry spell, I do recall that it was helpful to get back there at the end of the summer; I had missed the community spirit in those meetings.

And yet, why in the world would I feel guilty for not attending? It’s not as if I am so full of wisdom that I actually make a difference in anyone’s evening. And lots of people cycle in and out. I don’t do myself any good by regretting missing those meetings. I am missing one right this minute, in fact, because I was at work later than I expected to be.

As I was walking the dogs tonight, and wondering why I have been so cranky lately, it occurred to me: I think I feel guilty because I am not as tortured by Mom’s illness as I used to be. For now, at least, I am sustained by the goodness of my own life in a way that lessens my need for the support of my caregiver peers. And even though I don’t actually believe this to be the case, I can’t disregard the worry I have that I might be a bad person if I’m not in constant agony about Mom.

I am so lacking in agony and obsession, in fact, that the anniversary of Mom’s diagnosis went by without a single passing thought in my mind. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on Nov. 3, 2005. Hence the reference to seven years in the title. My guilt actually predates that diagnosis, because once I learned she had Alzheimer’s, I was full of regret over all the arguments we had as the illness was first causing her distress – before any of us knew that. And when I looked after her when she was in assisted living, I was always convinced I wasn’t doing enough. Over the 3+ years she has lived in the Alz center, I have occasionally wondered if I didn’t visit often enough – and I am going through one of those phases now.

Lately, when people have asked how Mom is doing, I’ve had the same answer: She hasn’t changed much in a long time. Translation: She hasn’t lost significant function; she is holding steady. I’m pretty sure that is a factor here. I am used to her current state. Perhaps with the next change in her status, I’ll enter a new phase of grief. Is it so wrong that I accept and am OK with her current status?

I think I am the one I have to convince that it is OK to be OK.

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