Care Partnering, Challenges & Solutions, Life & Living, Tips, tools & skills

20 questions to ask yourself when you blow up

Blow up woman with steam paintedIt happens to everyone at one time or another: we lose our temper with someone we love, we say things we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment, and we’re wracked by guilt afterward.

Care partners to people who live with dementia are no different from anyone else. We too lose our temper and say things we don’t mean. We are only human. We’re often drafted into the role of care partner without training, without knowledge and without the proper skills. Guess what? That takes its toll.

When we “lose it” the impact on the people we love who live with dementia can appear devastating. We feel doubly guilty because the behaviour that drives us crazy is not intentional on their part. They don’t do what they do maliciously, Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia reduces their ability to behave in ways to which we are accustomed. We worry for their safety, we want to protect them. We are stressed beyond reason and we snap. We lash out, just as they sometimes do, because we feel angry, frustrated and powerless.

It’s often hard to let go of what we’ve done and to forgive ourselves when this happens.

Here are 20 questions to ask yourself when you blow up:

  1.  Are you doing your best? If you are truly not doing your best, how could you do better? Are you trying to do too much? Are you stretched too thin? Do you have enough support?
  2. Do you expect other people never to lose their patience and/or get angry? If you do, is that a realistic expectation and are others always able to achieve it?
  3. Are you sorry? Is there an opportunity to say you’re sorry? Have you taken it? (Hint: if you haven’t, try it now. Find seven specific ways to phrase it here.)
  4. Do you love the person you care for? Did you intentionally want to hurt them, or make they feel bad, sad or upset?
  5. Did you intentionally yell at them, berate them or blame them? Or were you simply at the end of your proverbial rope?
  6. Has anyone ever been angry with you for any reason? Has anyone ever yelled or spoken to you in a harsh way when you didn’t deserve it? While it might have been unpleasant at the time, did you get over it?
  7. If you answered “yes” to #6, were you able to forgive the person who was angry or berated you? What helped you to forgive them? If you couldn’t forgive them, why not?
  8. At your core, are you more “good” than “evil?” As a rule, do you tend to be abusive or compassionate?
  9. Has your care partner who lives with dementia ever behaved in ways that were hurtful to you? Were you able to forgive him or her? What helped you to be forgiving? What stopped you from forgiving?
  10. Is it helpful to feel guilty and/or beat yourself up over something you have done? Instead of feeling guilty and/or beating yourself up, what actions might you take to heal what has happened? Be specific.
  11. Have you given some thought to the circumstances that led to the blow up? What happened exactly? Can you step back and analyze what went down in a cool and non-judgmental way? How good a detective are you? Can you turn this into a learning opportunity?
  12. Did you blow up after a long string of small incidents (i.e. was this the straw that broke the camel’s back)? Or was it one BIG incident “out of the blue?”
  13. Do the answers to #11 and #12 suggest what you might do differently the next time to avoid a similar result? (For example: Perhaps deep breathing would have helped calm you and diffused the situation. Might the triple “A” in BANGS have been useful?)
  14. Are you mentally and/or physically exhausted? Are people who are mentally and/or physically exhausted able to perform at peak levels?
  15. Do you pat yourself on the back every time you do something good, kind, compassionate, and loving for your care partner who lives with dementia? If not, why not?
  16. Do you do more “good” things than “bad?” How often do you praise yourself and tell yourself what a great person you are for the good things you do? Is it more or less often than you feel guilty about the “bad” stuff?
  17. What rewards do you give yourself for the amazing work you’re doing?
  18. Can you let it go? Are you able to forgive yourself? If yes, what would be the result? If not, what would be the result?
  19. Overall, do your actions and care make your care partner’s life better or worse? More livable or more miserable? Easier or harder?
  20. Are you a superhuman superhero?

Let me know if these questions help by commenting below. Find more “20 questions” posts here.

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Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

9 thoughts on “20 questions to ask yourself when you blow up”

  1. Dementia

    When I speak and he doesn’t ‘hear’ me – is it really that my words are garbled in his brain and he can’t comprehend my words? Is this why his answers to my questions are actually answers to something he thinks I asked? Is this how he ‘compensates’ for his brain dysfunction? Is this why he reads the same book over and over? Is this why he cannot give me any details of a lesson, conversation, or book he just read? Does he fall asleep when I am reading to him because he can’t comprehend my words? Does his falling asleep make me angry because I feel ignored or not important? Is this why we have never had a conversation in our 24 years of marriage?


      1. Dear miracle,

        It’s hard to answer definitively as so many factors come into play including the history of your relationship, the stage of the disease, the type of dementia he has etc. And just as we are, every person with dementia is unique. That means the course of the disease and how it evolves is unique to that person.

        Because he has a brain disease, he may behave in ways that you might find hard to understand and which may seem not to make sense.

        I don’t know what’s going on in his brain any more than you do. However, that said, memory is one of the aspects that is impacted by dementia so he may not remember conversations, “lessons”, books, etc.

        He may fall asleep for the same reasons the rest of us do: he’s tired, bored, has some kind of physical issue, is lulled to sleep by your reading, etc.

        “When I speak and he doesn’t ‘hear’ me – is it really that my words are garbled in his brain and he can’t comprehend my words?” Possibly. Remember he has a brain disease.

        “Is this why his answers to my questions are actually answers to something he thinks I asked?” Possibly. Also, he may have aphasia. More about that here:

        “Is this how he ‘compensates’ for his brain dysfunction?” Maybe. I think it’s likely that he is unable to process information as well as he once did.

        “Does his falling asleep make me angry because I feel ignored or not important?” Only you can answer that question.

        ” Is this why we have never had a conversation in our 24 years of marriage?” I don’t know, but it strikes me that you are expressing resentment and unhappiness about your relationship in general. You will continue to be frustrated because you can’t go back and change what’s already happened. If you haven’t already, I suggest you reach out and get some counselling, or coaching with respect to your care partnering role.

        There’s some additional information here on a more positive approach to seeing the devolution of the disease:

        I hope that helps.



      2. Thank you for ‘zeroing in’ on my need for practical advice. After 24 years of his BS, causing a ‘hardened’ relationship between us, someone suggesting it is probably dementia has made a huge difference. Yes, knowledge is power. I have read the reviews and ordered the books. Thanks again.


  2. All your questions were exactly the things I have experienced, felt, thought or did. I am honestly, always a pot ready to boil over and this is how I know I am extremely stressed. Instant road rage, instant anger…..when I use to be a person slow to boil, a thinker and analyzer of situations. Now I’m already there in a nanosecond.
    It’s that my mom has a personality disorder, narcissistic and histrionic. She’s been physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. Because of her we are alienated from my entire father’s side of the family and maybe that’s why we lost contact with our relatives overseas.
    I moved in four years ago and she resumed being the cruel, mean, cold woman she always was. Always critical, always negative and never a kind word. I suspect her dementia started years ago but it was hard to tell cuz she was as nasty as she always was. I moved in cuz my brother who she managed to warp and wrapped her finger, died unexpectedly. He has his own issues and addictions, I suspect due to having deal with her mostly.
    I would have to listen to her daily complaints and rants (against myself) when her moods struck. I had not lived with her for 30 years and all those old emotional scars just opened up, seeing no change.
    About a year ago she went into the latter stages of dementia. I’m lucky that she’s still mobile somewhat and she has a good appetite but now I have to do everything else. She refuses to bathe and she smells, she hides her dirty diapers and I have to play hide and go seek. And of course the same conversations, the memory loss. While I prep her meals, buy the foods she loves and craves, she still bitches at me. When she goes into dementia rage she tells me to get out of her house, etc.
    All this on top of old resentments and I’m one grouchy caregiver. the most irritating is, when she thinks I’m watching she moans and groans, can’t even carry a coffee cup becuz it’s sooo heavy, so much drama and a need for attention. I blew out my back becuz she kept demanding I lift her up when she’s too lazy to make the effort to sit up.

    I’ve been in counseling but I can’t let go of the old and new anger. At times I’m at peace but most of the time I’m on edge. Not a good place to be so I am working on how to let it go.


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