When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the shock of the diagnosis can be overwhelming for the family, and reactions to this news can vary among each family member. As a loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, the challenges that come from caregiving and the difficult nature of the disease can cause even more struggles within the family. Alzheimer’s disease can make major shifts in family dynamics, which can be painful if families don’t prepare for them.
Lonette Bentley, Executive Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida, helps many families through the trials of a loved one’s memory loss. “No matter what your family structure may be like, Alzheimer’s disease changes everything,” says Bentley. “Normal roles reverse, priorities shift and plans for the future get put on hold. These changes are seldom easy, but with the right approach, families can navigate these changes together and become stronger in the process.”
Altered Dynamics in a Caregiver’s Home
Becoming a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may not affect much at first. In the earliest stages, memory loss may not impact a person’s abilities to take care of him or herself, but as the disease progresses, they will need more and more care. With this need come greater responsibilities for the caregiver and their family members.
The ways a loved one’s Alzheimer’s affects the family are as varied as families themselves. Yet, many families experience similar changes that can disrupt their family structure and day-to-day lives. Some of these include:
- Role reversals – An adult child must now take care of a parent, or a spouse must adopt new responsibilities that used to fall on their partner. These reversals can be emotionally difficult for both individuals.
- New priorities – When caring for a loved one takes top priority, other aspects of life get pushed to the side. A caregiver may have to sacrifice a full-time job and income, time spent with their children, social engagements and more.
- Effects on children – Young children and teenagers may have a hard time understanding the changes that are going on with regards to their loved one’s disease. They may have to deal with a parent’s absence and lack of attention, as well as coping with the changes they witness in their loved one.
- Uncertain futures – Alzheimer’s disease will change not only the individual’s plans for the future, but their caregiver’s as well. Plans for retirement may have to change. Plans for long-term care and legal planning become necessary long before the family thought.
- Disagreements – Family members may disagree about how to care for the loved one with Alzheimer’s, especially when siblings are involved. Some members may want their loved one to move to a memory care community, while others want them to move in with a family member. Every decision a caregiver has to make could be met with opposition from another concerned family member.
How to Cope as a Family
According to the Alzheimer's Association® – Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter, all of your family’s changing dynamics need to be addressed in order to form an effective caregiving team for your loved one. Every family will have slightly different problems to deal with, but experts on memory loss suggest some tips to help families through these changes:
- Adjust to the “new normal” – Acceptance of your loved one’s disease is the first step to providing support. Your family is now a caregiving family, and this new element of family life is likely to last for a long time. Helping each other cope with this reality will set you on the path to positive efforts and effective care.
- Take a team approach – While one member of the family may be the primary caregiver, it’s unfair to expect that person to go it alone. Experts find that when families take a team approach to memory care, it benefits everyone. Evaluate the strengths, skills and availability of each family member to see how you can divide care tasks for the greatest effect.
- Communicate often – Making sure everyone is on the same page about your loved one’s care is imperative. Communicating changes in their condition and sharing about new care techniques you’ve learned will better help your loved one and lead to fewer arguments. Take the time to sit down and sort out disagreements you may have when they arise.
- Avoid placing blame – When things get difficult, it’s human nature to find someone or something to blame. In a caregiving situation, it may be easy to blame other siblings who don’t take as much responsibility as you, especially if they live far away. Yet, placing blame will only do more harm than good. You’ll have more success getting family members to pitch in more if you confront them in a non-aggressive manner.
- Get support – Every family will experience difficulties as they care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes, problems and disagreements can’t be resolved on their own. There is no shame in seeking a third party to help your family solve a problem. A family counselor, pastor or trusted friend can provide an outside perspective and help your family come to agreements or solutions.
- Join a support group – Even if your family is doing a good job at becoming a caregiving team, you may still experience emotional or logistical struggles. A family support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers is a great way to help families cope with the trials they face. Find one at your local senior living community or Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
Support for All of You
“Clarity Pointe Pensacola’s mission is to enhance the lives of those with Alzheimer’s, as well as those caring for them,” shares Bentley. “If you could use some guidance on how to address your family’s changing dynamics, our team is ready to help at any time.”
Clarity Pointe Pensacola is a specialized memory care community, solely committed to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory impairment. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, around-the-clock, professional care often becomes necessary. Clarity Pointe’s evidence-based care approach and emphasis on family connections make it an ideal solution for families.
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe’s 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 Pensacola offers three 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.