Coping with feelings of guilt when you care for someone with dementia

Caring for a person with dementia can be very challenging and can often bring about feelings of guilt, even when you’re trying your best.  

We explain why these feelings might arise, and how you can cope with them.  

What might cause feelings of guilt?

There are many reasons why you may experience guilt when you care for someone with dementia – for example, if: 

  • you’re tired  
  • you are unable to be with the person all day and night 
  • you sometimes resent your caring responsibilities 
  • you want some time to yourself 
  • you sometimes feel angry or frustrated with the person – especially if these feelings bubble over  
  • you need to reconsider a promise or decision that you made earlier – for example, “I’ll never put you into a care home” 
  • you feel you’re not living up to your own – or other people’s – expectations of what a caregiver should be 
How to cope with feelings of guilt

Caring for someone with dementia can be extremely hard, and you can only do it if you are in good health yourself. 

You may not be able to prevent feelings of guilt entirely, but try to be kind to yourself to avoid becoming overwhelmed by these feelings. 

Reassure yourself that you’re only human and that it’s normal to sometimes feel angry, distressed or resentful. 

Remind yourself that it’s simply not possible to care for someone on your own 24 hours a day – and that you’re doing the best you can.  

Try to think about what the person with dementia would do if the roles were reversed and they were caring for you. What would you want them to do for you? And would you want them to feel guilty or upset if they were finding their caring role difficult? 

If circumstances change, and you need to use paid carers or respite services or move the person you care for into a home, try not to see this as a personal failure, or as letting the person down.  

You did not ask for this job and have not been trained for it – and seeking professional support can actually relieve you of some of your caring responsibilities so you can focus on enjoying your time with the person with dementia. 

Finding support for yourself and the person you’re caring for

Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging and exhausting, so try not to feel guilty if you can’t do everything yourself, or if you need extra help.  

These tips may help you feel better supported and more able to care for the person with dementia. 

  • Arrange for a carer to visit on a regular basis to help with practical tasks like washing and dressing, or to sit with the person or take them out for a walk or drive so you can take a break  
  • Ask for help from family and friends. They might think you’re coping well and not realise the extent of your caring responsibilities. People often like to feel useful and may be pleased if they’re asked 
  • Request a Carer’s Assessment from Social Services, as you may be entitled to respite care for the person with dementia, or other accommodations to help you in your caring role 
  • Ask your GP or social worker if there are any local sources of support – for example, carers’ support groups or volunteer befrienders who could visit the person at home 
  • Find out if you or the person you care for are eligible for any benefits to make daily life easier – see Sources of support below for details of our information on financial support  
Sources of support

To speak to a specialist nurse about coping with feelings of guilt or any other aspect of dementia, call our free Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm, every day except 25th December) or email helpline@dementiauk.org. 

If you would prefer a pre-booked phone or video appointment with a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse, please visit dementiauk.org/get-support/closer-to-home/. 

Dementia UK information on looking after yourself as a carer
dementiauk.org/get-support/looking-after-yourself-as-a-carer/looking-after-yourself-when-you-care-for-someone-with-dementia/ 

Dementia UK information on financial and legal sources of support
dementiauk.org/get-support/legal-and-financial-information/sources-of-support-and-advice/ 

Social Services
For information and advice on issues like respite care, Carer’s Assessments, Needs Assessments and other services for people with dementia and their families, contact Social Services via your local council: you can find details at gov.uk/find-local-council

Carers Trust
carers.org/ 

Carers UK
carersuk.org 

Mind mental health charity
mind.org.uk 

People who care for someone with dementia can often feel guilty.

There are many reasons why these feelings of guilt can occur.

This video features advice from Chief Admiral Nurse and Chief Executive Officer, Hilda Hayo, on the subject of guilt.

Download our Coping with feelings of guilt leaflet

Download and read our leaflet on Coping with feelings of guilt

Download now

Order our information leaflets

Order printed versions of our leaflets

Order now

How can we support you

Whether you have a question that needs an immediate answer or need emotional support when life feels overwhelming, these are the ways our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses can support you

Get support

Publication date: January 2021
Review date: January 2023