4 Ways to Combat Caregiver Helplessness

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Helplessness is a common -- and frustrating -- emotion for many caregivers, especially those dealing with a disease beyond their control, such as dementia, Parkinson's, or advanced cancer. You've done what you can. But you can't change the course of the awful disease.

What helps:

1. Avoid self-blame. Red-flag phrases you should quit thinking: "If only I. . . ." "I should have. . . ." "Why didn't I. . . ?" This is a form of negative thinking that has no upside. You can't change the past. You did the best you could, and made the best decisions you could, based on the information before you at the time.

2. Recognize that, sometimes, you can only stand by -- and that's OK. Remember that sometimes there's a time for action and a time for inaction. "Doing nothing" isn't synonymous with "not caring." You wouldn't feel such anguish if you didn't care so much.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

3. Instead of feeling frustrated about what you can't do, focus on all the good you've already done for your loved one. It's no small or unnecessary thing to grant yourself some peace of mind from acknowledging that you've done much that's worthwhile and beneficial, and probably have done so for a very long time.

4. Turn your energies to improving quality of life. How can you make your loved one more comfortable? How can you help him or her feel safe and secure? Does the person still have the mental capacity to focus on the legacy he or she hopes to leave behind?

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio