Sara Qualls, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, said it's natural for caregivers to be disgusted by some of what they have to do-toileting a loved one, for instance-and to be profoundly conflicted when they try to reconcile this feeling with a feeling of devotion.
In some circumstances, traumatic-like responses can result.
work entails naming the emotion the caregiver is experiencing, letting the person know it is normal, and trying to identify the trigger.
For instance, an older man may come in saying he's
wife with dementia by not doing enough for her
Addressing this man's guilt, Dr. Qualls
may find that he
can't stand being exposed to urine or feces but has to help his
wife go to the bathroom.
Instead of facing his
true feelings, he's
beating up on himself psychologically - a diversion.
Once a conflict of this kind is identified, Dr. Qualls
can help a person deal with the trigger by using relaxation exercises and problem-solving techniques, or by arranging for someone else to do a task that he
simply can't tolerate.
"I think that a piece of the trauma reaction that is so devastating is the intense privacy of it," Dr. Qualls