Family Dynamics


FAMILY Dynamics can sometimes be challenging in relation to adequate support for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Q: I want to help support my loved one, but I do not agree on the care that my family is providing for our loved one. Do I just let them handle it and mind my own business?

A: The fact that you are asking tells me you still want to help and you feel that “your hands are tied.” Some family members do “throw in the towel.” But do not think they do not care about their loved one with dementia because they still do. This in fact is a great challenge with some families. It was told that approximately 30% of families struggle with conflicts when caring for a loved one with dementia and it doubles with blended families.

There is no one answer that fits all. This is also a loaded question with many variables. However, it is important to recognize that each family member is connected by the desire to do the best care for their loved one. Their grieving of loss associated with the disease is personal and different from each other. This includes younger children involved or affected by the care. It just is. My suggestion in this case would be get a mediator that explains the changes that the person with dementia will experience and how that will affect each person involved with care.

If this is not available to you, then I would recommend that you evaluate what intentions you had to help and rethink a different way to help. Ask yourself how much knowledge do you have about the disease. If it is limited, do some research on it and you will have ideas on other ways to help. Who is causing you to not help? Is it you? How is the other family member(s) really causing you to not help? If you feel it is the other family member(s), then ask yourself, in what way? Is this the only way you can help? Or can you still help regardless of the block? You will find that you have more power to help than you realize. No one likes conflict. Remain peaceful, as this will help your loved one’s care. What other ways can you help that is peaceful? Don’t give up, as this can cause guilt and unrecognizable stress for you. It is important for you to recognize that you are a caregiver as well. All care given is not only from the primary, or the person doing direct personal care. You are a caregiver if you do direct personal care daily, weekly or randomly; financially in any amount whether routinely or randomly in any area of care or household needs; take care of errands; share duties to maintain functions of the home or organize family meetings. The list is endless on how one can help. Understand you will not always agree but keep in mind that you all love the person with dementia.

Try to recognize your feelings of grief of loss and how it has affected you and your relationships. Everything changes, relationships change and this is a loss of what used to be. Sometimes when we are struck with grief, we do not recognize our own behaviours towards others who are being helpful. If we are able to recognize our own feelings and adjust our own behaviours, then we can see clearly with love toward those who are experiencing grief in a different way. So minding your own business would be to care for yourself and your desire to help a loved one.

Q: I have read that age is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, how do I reduce my risk if I have no other risk factors?

A: There is no guarantee that someone will or will not develop Alzheimer’s or another dementia. We know we cannot stop getting older other than death itself. However, we can create new brain cells by keeping our brains active. And we can do this with reading twice a day, (the paper, favourite magazine or book); social activity; engaging in conversations of interest; learning something new or doing things with your non dominant hand; listening to music of choice and exercise. One of the key factors that I encourage is that the activity must be something you enjoy. If you are doing these because you feel you have to, it will not fire up new cells as quickly. Love creates life. This is one of the reasons that singing or playing a favourite song for a person with Alzheimer’s will spark happiness, and happiness sparks new brain cells. Share the love.

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