The world of care giving is complex.  We all know that it’s a tough journey, but at times, the past experiences of caregivers can be triggered by their present role?

First off, let’s take a moment to salute all those incredible individuals who dedicate themselves to caregiving, especially for loved ones living with dementia. It’s a role that often goes unnoticed, but it’s one of the most profound acts of love and compassion.

However, the journey is far from straightforward. It’s filled with ups and downs, and sometimes, a caregiver’s past experiences can unexpectedly resurface. This might be due to the sheer stress and emotional strain that caregiving brings, or it could be a direct trigger from their loved one’s condition. So, what exactly happens when the past comes knocking?

Triggers are powerful, often unexpected, reminders of past experiences, which can evoke intense emotional reactions. For dementia caregivers, these triggers can be as varied as the people they care for. A sound, a smell, a place, or even a phrase can transport them back to a moment in their past. It might also relate to their history with the person with dementia, so the caring role has multiple aspects to it.  And when that moment is tinged with pain or trauma, it can become overwhelming.

Imagine a caregiver who once had a traumatic experience involving their parent, for whom they now care, perhaps they were unduly disciplined.  They are now taking care of a loved one with dementia, gets agitated. When the caregiver is unable to calm their loved one, they might be transported back to their past trauma related to being disciplined, leading to heightened anxiety and stress.

Being triggered by a past memory is never easy, and in the context of caregiving, it can be even more challenging. The emotional storm that follows can include anxiety, anger, sadness, and even guilt. Caregivers might question why they’re feeling this way, especially when their main focus should be on their loved one’s wellbeing.

So, what can caregivers do when the past rears its head? The most important thing is to recognize that it’s okay to feel these emotions. It’s a natural response, and caregivers should never blame themselves. Instead, they should focus on self-care and seeking support.

Self-Reflection: Caregivers should allow themselves time to process their emotions. This might involve journaling, speaking to a therapist, or simply confiding in a trusted friend.

Seeking Professional Help: If the triggers and emotions become overwhelming, it’s perfectly okay to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and strategies to cope with these challenging emotions.

Respite Care: Taking regular breaks and allowing for respite care can provide much-needed relief and relaxation for caregivers. This allows them to recharge and reset.

Support Groups: Connecting with others in similar situations through support groups can be incredibly comforting. Sharing experiences and learning from one another can help caregivers navigate these emotional challenges.

In the realm of caregiving, it’s essential to remember that caregivers are human, too. They carry their own life experiences and emotions into the caregiving journey. When the past rears its head, it’s a reminder that caregivers need care and support as well.


If you’re a caregiver dealing with these triggers, know that you’re not alone. Reach out for help, embrace self-care, and remember that your journey is a testament to your love and dedication. The past may appear in the present, but it’s up to you to determine whether it stays or gently moves on.

It’s important to recognize the remarkable strength and resilience of caregivers, who embark on this challenging journey with hearts full of love and good intention. Together, we can create a compassionate, understanding, and supportive community that empowers caregivers to face the past and present with courage and grace.