Dealing with Alzheimer's can bring out many strong emotions. As the disease progresses, caregiving issues can often ignite or magnify family conflicts. The tips below can help families cope with the situation together.
Tips for families
- Listen to each family member with respect. Coping with a progressive illness, such as Alzheimer's, can be stressful — and not everyone reacts in the same way. Family members may have different opinions. Some relatives may deny what is happening; a long-distance relative may be resented for living far away; or there may be disagreement about financial and care decisions, especially at the end-of-life. These issues are complex and require ongoing discussions. Give everyone an opportunity to share their opinion and avoid blaming or attacking each other, as this will only cause more hurt.
- Discuss caregiving responsibilities. Talk through caregiving roles and responsibilities. Make a list of tasks and include how much time, money and effort may be involved to complete them. Divide tasks according to the family member’s preferences and abilities. Some family members may be hands-on caregivers, responding immediately to issues and organizing resources. Others may be more comfortable with being told to complete specific tasks. Consider setting up an online care calendar to coordinate helpers.
- Continue to talk. Keep the lines of communication open. Schedule regular meetings or conference calls to keep everyone involved up-to-date. Discuss how things are working, reassess the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s, and decide if any changes in responsibilities are needed. Plan for anticipated changes as the disease progresses.
- Cope with changes and loss together. As Alzheimer's progresses and cognitive abilities change, it is normal to experience feelings of loss. Caregivers and family members may want to seek support from others who are dealing with similar situations. Attend a support group in your area or join our ALZConnected online community.
- Seek outside help. If tensions and disagreements are ongoing, you may want to seek help from a trusted third party, such as a spiritual leader, mediator or counselor. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help everyone take a step back and work through the difficult issues. The Alzheimer's Association Helpline (800.272.3900) is staffed with care consultants who can help any time — day or night.