Dear Family Resource,
When my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved in with us, a friend wisely told me, “When one person gets dementia, the whole family gets dementia.” She was right. For 6 years we all lived and breathed dementia. Eventually, she needed full-time care, and my husband, siblings, and I each took shifts caring for her. It was terribly hard and we didn’t have energy left for much else, not even birthdays and holidays. She died 4 months ago and I’m ashamed to say it – but I’m relieved that she’s gone. And now the holidays are coming and I can’t get myself to start baking and decorating the house. It feels like I’d be celebrating that she’s passed. What’s wrong with me?
Dear Feeling Guilty,
You are not alone in your feelings. Caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s-type dementia is terribly difficult. Do not be ashamed that you feel a sense of relief following your mother’s death. Think instead of the loving care you and your family provided her so she could remain at home and be well taken care of by the people who loved her. Feeling relief doesn’t diminish your love for her. Often family caregivers feel guilty for just wanting some rest or a life of their own. Guilt will get you nowhere and could even lead to depression. Please know that caregivers are the unsung heroes. Without your loving care, your mother may not have fared as well as she did. It’s time you and your family celebrate your mother’s life, say goodbye, and go back to living and enjoying your own life.