Experts in memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia tell us that the progressive condition not only affects the loved one living with the disorder but also the entire family unit. The impact on families can be so extensive that primary caregivers are sometimes called “the second victims of Alzheimer’s” and families are referred to as “the invisible patients.”
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, experts at the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association advise that two things are essential:
- Become as educated and informed as you can about the disease so you always know what to expect.
- Get help; taking care of a loved one with progressive memory loss typically becomes too big of a job for one human being.
Because of the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s and the slow but steady changes in behavior and function it inevitably causes, it is very important for families to understand as much as possible about the disorder as early in the process as possible.
Advice for Managing the Family Dynamics of Alzheimer’s Disease
In her article, “How to Avoid Strained Sibling Relationships When a Parent Has Alzheimer's” Paula Spencer Scott, Senior Editor of Caring.com, offers useful advice for dealing with family dynamics when a parent has Alzheimer's disease or another form of memory impairment. The author says that although siblings have a “strength in numbers” advantage over only children when a parent develops Alzheimer's, for every additional family member in the mix of caregivers there is also an increased chance of communication problems and discord.
She offers the following useful advice to families on the subject:
- Agree to Disagree – There's rarely one right way to handle things and there will be disagreements. The primary goal is that something helpful is done.
- Outgrow Old Expectations – Remember that you're all grown-ups now, and are equally vested. Everyone involved should have a say in what transpires.
- Realize That You Need Each Other – It's virtually impossible for a single individual to provide Alzheimer's care 24-7 for the duration of the disease.If you're the sibling who is the primary caregiver, provide candid appraisals of the situation for your brothers and sisters. If you're not the primary caregiver, it's important to support the person who is in words and deeds (and dollars, if possible).
Tips for Keeping Family Relationships Smooth
Ms. Scott and other experts offer additional advice for maintaining relations within the family under the stress of Alzheimer’s. For example:
- Ask for Help – Frequently, one primary caregiver bears the greatest responsibility for your loved one’s care. That individual expends a tremendous amount of personal time and energy in this role and often suffers the consequences in the form of high levels of stress, physical and emotional fatigue and declining health. Dealing with personal, family, work and caregiving responsibilities is a momentous task. Therefore, caregivers should always ask for help. When you do, be very clear and specific in what you request (e.g. “Please take Mom to the dentist next Thursday”). Often, family members and friends want to help out, but don’t know quite what to do until you approach them.
- Divide the Labor – Talk over each family member's skills, strengths and life situation andusethe “divide and conquer” approach. Put together a formal schedule or calendar that identifies who is responsible for doing what and when.
- Share Vital Information and Talk Regularly – Putting key information in writing gives everyone access to the facts while also leaving a paper trail in the event of later disagreements.
- Plan Ahead – Always be prepared for what might come next. At some point, your loved one’s requirements for care and safety will exceed what can properly be provided in the home environment. Therefore, it is important to think about your next steps such as considering a high quality residential memory care community for your loved one’s continued well-being.
The Alzheimer’s Associationexplains that“Part of living well with Alzheimer’s is adjusting to your ‘new normal’ and helping family and friends do the same. Knowing what to expect and what resources are available can make the process easier for you and those close to you.”
By following this advice, family members will be in the best position to cope with memory loss’s long-term effects as well as to support their loved one’s needs for increasing levels of care, support and compassion.
To provide needed support, the Alzheimer’s Association provides a variety of educational resources for families, community members and people facing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the Association’s article, “Helping Friends and Family” provides useful tips for discussing the subject of Alzheimer’s with those who typically interact with your loved one on a regular basis – including children.
Amanda S. King, Executive Director of Clarity Pointe Jacksonville, says, “While it is often a difficult and highly emotional decision to move Mom or Dad out of the home, it is important to keep their comfort, safety and well-being in mind as your top priority. Today, leading memory care communities such as Clarity Pointe Jacksonville provide the care, services, amenities and social engagement programs that offers a purposeful and fulfilling lifestyle for loved ones in a cheerful, compassionate environment. Here, families are always welcome and are strongly encouraged to remain part of their loved one’s lives.”
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe offers freestanding, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.