Dissolving the Guilt of a Caregiver
EFT for family members of Alzheimer's patients
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Being the primary caregiver of a family member who has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia is traumatic and demanding. There are many aspects to handle, for example: the tremendous emotional toll (loss of the established relationship with a spouse or parent which brings up fear, anger, depression and grief), administrative, legal and financial issues, medical and physical problems, or dealing with other family members who can be either missing in action or meddling.
One of the most difficult decisions to make is at what point the transfer into a nursing or other care home is appropriate. Dementia is not a disease that gets worse in a linear fashion, there are days or moments when the patient is exactly the person we have known: sweet, connected and completely clear in his or her mind. There just is not one obvious marker that indicates for everybody, without a doubt, when the time for a care home has come.
This leaves the primary caretaker who has to shoulder the full responsibility for another’s life in an agonizing conflict: Am I really doing the right thing here?
“Miriam” came to me in order to work on all the aspects of the impending transfer of her life partner “John” with Alzheimer’s into a nursing home. The separation from somebody she had lived with on and off for 40 years, through good and also very bad times, seemed unbearable to her. It also stirred up other painful memories of separations from her parents, lovers, friends, and two of her siblings.
In one of our sessions we worked specifically on the feeling of guilt about putting John in a nursing home.
This guilt was experienced by her as pressure on the top of her head, and it had a lot to say. So we tapped:
Even though I am in this impossible situation that has no perfect solution, I do the best I can, and I am willing to accept myself.
Even though I have constant doubts about making the right decision, I treat myself with kindness and compassion.
Even though I have this piece of guilt wedged into my head, I soothe and comfort myself.
We tapped through the points giving the guilt a voice:
I am not letting you forget
You are irresponsible
I am not happy about how you are handling this
I know everything, and you know nothing
You are stupid
I make the right decisions, you can’t
Only I do it right, you don’t
I ended this sequence with a little humorous re-frame, and Miriam laughed:
Not that an obnoxious little piece of guilt knows anything about making the right decisions.
The holding, grabbing sensation on top of her head was dissolving, and the piece of guilt said: “I’m melting, and I am not happy about that!”
Miriam described it now as a little bubble with a big mouth. “It is loud-mouthed, a know-it-all just sitting there and criticizing my every move. It is like a leech, feeding of itself, not helpful in any way.”
Since an energy form cannot just disappear, I asked Miriam what job we could give this piece of guilt that would actually be helpful. Miriam closed her eyes and envisioned that the big-mouthed bubble burst and its energy was transformed into a mass of tiny, sparkling stars that would help her make the right decisions.
“This is so beautiful!” Miriam said. “Twinkling stars dancing around my head and singing: “We love you, we love you…”
As mentioned, there are many aspects for the primary caretaker of a person with Alzheimer’s /dementia involved. If not handled well, they can lead to caretaker burnout which is an emotional and physical break-down. When doing EFT either in a practitioner-client relationship or working alone, it is crucial to get specific. A situation like this brings up everything of the caregiver’s personal issues, from childhood abandonment, the loss of other family members, lovers and friends, old guilt feelings, money fears, to anxiety about the future. Also, spiritual questions might come up, like: “What is the meaning of all of this?”, or even: “Why is God doing this to us?”
There is no perfect solution, there are no easy answers. However, EFT can greatly ease the emotional pain, help solve problems, and advance the spiritual journey.
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Carna Zacharias-Miller is a certified EFT practitioner in Tucson, Arizona. Her specialty is working with people who grew up in a dysfunctional family, especially with a physically or emotionally “missing mother”. She also works with caregivers of Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. www.missingmother.com.
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