Primary Caregiver Emotions: Denial

Denial (Disbelief and Shock) 


  • This is not the way this is supposed to be!  There must have been a mistake
  • There is no way that I am equipped to be caregiver!
  • I can’t feel anything.  This must be a dream and I need to wake up now
  • How am I supposed to get everything done?  
  • I cannot move or breathe or exist in this 


  • Fact:  It seems that denial is the most common and most dangerous of the PCEs.  
  • Fact:  Denial happens when those who love the person don’t acknowledge the elephant in the room, since surely the elephant can do no harm.  
  • Fact: Healthcare issues are difficult, complex and divisive.  
  • Fact: Many families prefer not to discuss such topics because they tend to create conflict and strife.  
  • Fact:  Delaying the inevitable increases the possibility that something unfortunate or even catastrophic will go wrong that could have been prevented 
  • Fact:  Denial and inaction dramatically reduces the options and possibilities of a good outcome.  
  • For the caregiver, questions of “why” they are thrust into a caregiving role or new developments that make their situation difficult.   
  • Additional questions unique to the caregiver is tied to their fitness to be a caregiver.  
  • Denial serves to initially buffer emotions as the mind avoids painful facts and emotions.  In that regard, denial is often referred to as a blocking defense mechanism.  
  • Denial serves to shock absorb the limbic system from the impact of immediate stress impact.  
  • Denial can also be useful when you are triggered in a public place or in a situation where outward expression of deep emotion would be awkward or unwelcome.

Getting on Top of the Stuff that Scares Us:  Check-in Questions for the Caregiver?  


  • What are some of your own feelings?  
  • How do you separate your stuff from the loved one in your care?  
  • What is working for you?  
  • What is motivating you?  
  • What does it mean to you to be “The Best Caregiver?”
  • How can you move past your feelings of inadequacy?  
  • How can you take care of yourself in the interest of doing the best thing in your role as a caregiver?  

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