How to Face Alzheimer’s as a Family – Managing Family Conflict After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Family Conflict - Dementia AlzheimersAn Alzheimer’s diagnosis will be extremely heartbreaking for everyone in your family. As you come together to decide how to move forward and provide care for your loved one, you may find that not everyone agrees on the next steps. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis will affect each of your family members differently. It may add stress to existing family strains or even cause new drama to erupt. Here are a few important tips on how to face this diagnosis in a positive and productive way as a family.

1.      Remember to Listen

You may have a strong opinion on whom your loved one should live with and what changes need to be made to the estate planning documents, but it’s important to let every family member share their opinion and make their case. More importantly, allow each family member to react and to grieve in their own way. For example, one sibling may be in denial, while another one may wish to move Mom to a memory care facility right away. Give your family members time, love, and support and commit to working together on making big decisions.

2.      Develop a Communication Plan

Before you start making major decisions for your loved one’s care and estate, determine who should be part of this conversation. Usually this includes the loved one’s spouse and adult children. It may also include siblings and even adult grandchildren or very close family friends. Determine a communication method that will work best for everyone, whether a phone call, a video call, or even an in-person meeting. During your first call, consider scheduling a regular meeting, to discuss your loved one’s care and to provide updates on any changes in their health or situation.

3.      Figure Out Caregiving Arrangements

The first responsibility you have to your family member is to ensure that they are safe and comfortable. If your loved on is in the early stages of the disease, it may be possible for them to continue living in their home (especially if their spouse can provide care). If they are in the middle stages of the disease, they will need more help and supervision and should probably either have a caretaker or be placed in a memory care home.

Discuss with your family to determine if Mom can stay at home, if she should move in with a family member, or if you should start looking into memory care facilities. List out chores and assign tasks so that everyone can share the responsibility for Mom’s care. For example, maybe a local family member can be in charge of driving Mom to doctor’s appointments, while an out-of-state family member can call Mom each week to check up on her. Another can visit or clean the house or bring groceries.

4.      Work Through Estate Planning

As we’ve mentioned before, it is a good idea for a loved one to get their estate planning documents in order as soon as possible after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, including a trust, a durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and more.

Make a plan to assist your loved one in this endeavor, including meeting with an attorney and ensuring that the necessary family members have copies of the documents. Double check that the successor trustee and the representative listed in the durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney are still available and ready to step up when necessary.

5.      Be Understanding

Every family has ingrained challenges, and you may have strong personalities among your family members who have different opinions on how to move forward. Try to listen to each person’s opinion and make sure everyone is heard and that the strong personalities don’t dominate the conversation. If there are disagreements on major decision, you may want to take a family vote. Just be sure you are willing to accept the will of the majority. If the situation becomes especially contentious, consider seeking help from a third party, such as a counselor, mediator, or spiritual leader.

One great way to get good advice and support from other people who are dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is to attend our free caregiver support group. The group meets once a month and is open to the public. See you there!


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