Gary's Guidance: Deconstructing Blame

April 2014

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type dementia can be stressful.  Many times there is several family members involved in care giving while some members of the family may not be directly providing care, but serve another role such as paying for senior services.  It is common for things not to go smoothly between family members when making decisions about elder care services.  Mistakes can be made or perhaps one family member finds fault with a decision that was made.  Things can get emotionally heated over what is best for the person with dementia. Where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is guilt there is blame.

Blame is closely associated with guilt.  Blame happens when the blamer tries to shirk their responsibility or deflect from having played a role in an undesirable outcome.  Blame can be a defense mechanism for trying to avoid being at fault.  Who hasn’t blamed someone at some point in time?  But blame doesn’t happen in a vacuum because it involves interpersonal dynamics in which something went wrong and expectations were not met.

Blame often gets conveyed when someone uses the word “should” during communication as in:  “If it was that important, you should have done it yourself.”  If you are feeling judged, criticized, or accused you are likely being blamed.  When being blamed, here is what you can do:

  • Accept responsibility, but refuse blame and avoid blaming in return.  Practice saying:  “I am feeling blamed.  That comment was not helpful so let’s focus on making things better.”
  • Although the blamer may seem powerful, remember the blamer’s actions come from feelings of inadequacy or feelings of powerlessness.  Practice saying:  “This must be difficult for you.  I bet you wish you could fix this, how can I help.”

In closing, try to replace blame with compassion.

Gary Kozick, LCSW

(215) 510-8901