Dementia not only affects the person with the illness, but the entire family. Family relationships are almost certain to change, and conflict often arises as roles and responsibilities change and critical decisions need to be made. Maintaining positive communication among family can be challenging, but it’s essential when working together to provide care.
As dementia progresses, family roles change. A spouse often becomes responsible for someone who was previously a partner, while also realizing the loss of future plans they had made together. They might also become overwhelmed managing tasks that were once handled by their spouse, such as financial and legal matters. Altogether, this can cause feelings of resentment, abandonment, and fatigue.
An adult son or daughter might suddenly turn into their parent’s caregiver, reversing lifelong roles. They may experience feelings of exhaustion and guilt, as they are stretched thin caring for a parent with dementia while still caring for their own family. Additionally, a caregiver’s children might feel resentment at having less time and attention from their parent and be confused or embarrassed by their grandparent’s changing behavior.
In addition to changing roles, providing care for a loved one with dementia can cause tension in family relationships. Siblings and other family members might have trouble accepting the person’s illness and refuse to participate in managing care, leaving the caregiver feeling burdened. Resentment might also build toward family members who are unable to help out as much because they live far away. On the other hand, those who live at a distance might feel their opinions and feelings are being ignored or invalidated. Old family issues might resurface when attempting to work together in the midst of stressful situations and disagreements might occur when it comes to important decisions regarding finances and care.
Teamwork is Key
Positive communication is essential when working together to provide care. Although disagreements can happen, it’s important that each family member’s opinions and feelings are included when developing an overall care plan so nobody feels left out. Sharing responsibilities as much as possible is also important to prevent the primary caregiver from experiencing burnout. Family members who live far away can still help by managing financial or insurance matters, or by doing something as simple as calling their parent or grandparent on a weekly basis.
Frequent communication is necessary to keep everyone updated on any recent changes and how care requirements might be impacted. If there are family issues that prevent positive communication, it might be beneficial to enlist the help of a family therapist to keep everyone connected and working as a team. Some families find that hiring a geriatric care manager or home care agency can also be beneficial in relieving the stress of managing care.
Working as a team to care for a relative with dementia also the ability to bring families together and grow closer. Whether or not the experience is positive, coping with dementia is a family experience shared by everyone.
Contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation to see how we can support your family. Our caregivers are experienced with memory care and dementia and can help alleviate the stress of caring for your loved one.
You can also find more information on managing dementia related illnesses here: http://www.alz.org/care/overview.asp.