Q: For the past 10 years, I've been the primary caregiver for my aging parents, one of whom has Alzheimer's. I can't even describe how overwhelmed and drained I feel. I'm always waiting for the next crisis, and anytime I take a moment for myself, I feel guilty. I honestly don't think I can keep this up. What do you suggest?

A: Your long-term caregiving responsibilities coupled with your feelings of guilt suggest a strongperhaps too strongwork ethic. You feel so responsible for others that you take care of them before taking care of yourself.

Since people can't deny their feelings, I'm not going to tell you not to feel guilty, but your guilt may be an automatic, albeit learned, reaction. The fact is, if you're going to have the emotional stamina to take care of your parents, you need to take care of yourself first and take some time just for you. So at least once or twice a week, set an afternoon and evening aside to do exactly that.

You also need to determine whether there are other family members who can share these responsibilities and then honestly discuss with them your need for them to do their share. If you have no family, look to friends or extended community, such as your church, for help. If none of these options are available, check out community-service groups, and if all else fails, hire some part-time assistance.

It often helps to realize that others are in similar situations. You might seek out support groups so you can interact with other caregivers who can share their emotional support and coping strategies. If you can't attend meetings in person, look for support in online forums, like the Caregivers Café. In addition, you might seek out personal counseling to learn new strategies for reducing your guilt and enhancing your own psychological well-being.

Dr. Rudow is the president of BTR Inc., a consulting and training firm whose work ranges from individual counseling to complete organizational reengineering. In addition, he is an accomplished public speaker who serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia Union College in Tacoma Park, Maryland. Rudow holds a B.A. in psychology from Rutgers University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in psychology from Colorado State University.