When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, families may feel overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the impending challenges. The diagnosis brings many strong emotions to the family. There can be a lot of tough decisions for the family to make regarding their loved one's care. Making these difficult decisions in a stressful time can incite or magnify family conflicts.
The Alzheimer's Association provides tips on how families can cope together when their loved one has Alzheimer's:
Listen with Respect. Listen to each other with respect. Everyone will respond to the stress of dealing with Alzheimer's in a different way. Some relatives may deny what is happening. Other relatives who live far away may be resented due to the distance. Family members may have different opinions. They may disagree on how to handle financial and care decisions, especially end-of-life decisions. While there are many complex issues and important decisions to make, caring for someone with Alzheimer's is an ongoing process. There will be continuous discussions with family so it is important to create an atmosphere of respect. Give each family member a chance to share their opinion. Do not blame or attack each other because this will only cause more hurt and unproductive conversations.
Discuss Caregiving. An important topic that must be discussed is caregiving responsibilities. Talk through the roles and responsibilities involved in caregiving. (See Respectful Caregiving for Elderly Loved Ones and Caring for Elderly Parents - Juggling Work and Caregiving.) It might be a good idea to make a list of tasks that need to be completed. Think about the time, money, and effort that will be involved in completing each task. Then, divide the tasks among family members based on preference and ability. Some family members may be hands-on caregivers who are capable of responding quickly and organizing resources. Others may do better by completing tasks with specific instruction. It could be helpful to have a shared calendar to coordinate the help and caregiving.
Keep Communication Lines Open. Keep talking with family throughout the process. Schedule regular meetings or conference calls so everyone can be up-to-date. It is good to evaluate how things are going. Discuss what is working and what isn't. Take time to reassess the needs of the person with Alzheimer's. If changes in responsibilities are needed, discuss the best way to implement these changes. Don't be surprised if there are more changes as the disease progresses.
Cope Together. Cope with the changes and loss that comes with Alzheimer's together as a family. It is normal to experience feelings of loss, as Alzheimer's changes a loved one's cognitive abilities and memory. Caregivers and family members may wish to seek support from those dealing with similar situations. Attending a local support group or joining an online community like ALZConnected can help families cope.
Get Outside Help. In some families, tensions and disagreements may be ongoing. It might be a good idea to seek help from a trusted third party such as a spiritual leader, mediator, or counselor. Sometimes the outside perspective can help families work through their issues. One resource is the Alzheimer's Association Helpline (800-272-3900), which is staffed with care consultants who can help any time — day or night.
Source: Resolving Family Conflicts by Alzheimer's Association