It 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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.)
- Do you love the person you care for? Did you intentionally want to hurt them, or make they feel bad, sad or upset?
- Did you intentionally yell at them, berate them or blame them? Or were you simply at the end of your proverbial rope?
- 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?
- 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?
- At your core, are you more “good” than “evil?” As a rule, do you tend to be abusive or compassionate?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?”
- 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?)
- Are you mentally and/or physically exhausted? Are people who are mentally and/or physically exhausted able to perform at peak levels?
- 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?
- 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?
- What rewards do you give yourself for the amazing work you’re doing?
- 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?
- Overall, do your actions and care make your care partner’s life better or worse? More livable or more miserable? Easier or harder?
- 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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