This is one of the reasons that taking care of a person who has dementia can be so discouraging. In addition, caregiving includes a great deal of emotional labor, which is invisible and not measurable. It is especially hard to see the fruits of your labor when your loved one is showing increasing symptoms. And as with all acts of love, there is no natural ceiling to caregiving: no matter how well you do it, you will always feel there is more you could have done.
One way to combat the discouragement that this kind of caregiving makes us subject to is simply to recognize these special challenges of caregiving. This will help you to see that the feeling of a lack of progress is not due to some fault of yours, but to the nature of the task. I call this the Rumpelstiltskin effect: sometimes once you know something’s name (that is, once you pinpoint the source and nature of your discouragement), it loses its power over you.
Another helpful way to look at caregiving is to make a sharp distinction in your mind between the tasks of caregiving and the caregiving itself. It’s actually only the tasks—cooking, feeding, cleaning, driving, and so on—that are undone as soon as they’re done. The caregiving itself—understood more broadly as your loving presence—lives in the moment, and it is completed there in the moment. Laundry lives in time, and so it goes through its cycles. That’s the nature of laundry. But love exists outside of time, and it is always complete.