Sharing the burden – how to cope with dementia and Alzheimer as a family

Despite the fact that some family members seem to be reluctant to help you with your task to care about a dementia or Alzheimer patient it is important to get them «on board» to help you with everyday tasks. Remember: Accusations will lead nowhere and will always result in stiffer rejections of the patient and yourself.

Watching someone progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s or other dementia is very stressful. Also, there may be guilt associated with the inability to “do more to help the person.” When working with other family members, it is important to remember the following:

– Family members adjust to the client’s condition in unique, individual ways.

– The process of adjustment involves grief and loss – anticipatory grief, i.e. grieving before death occurs.

Family members can react in unique and individual ways when a loved one is diagnosed with Dementia. The most common reactions are outlined below:

  • DENIAL: Reflects the initial response that nothing is wrong. Denial is a natural reaction; can prevent a family from seeking help; can create family conflict. Helpful Interventions: Provide accurate information on Dementia when appropriate; Listen without judging; Do not assume person is in denial. There may be a lack of information amongst family members.
  • OVER INVOLVEMENT: The primary caregiver may try to meet all the needs of the person with memory loss and refuse help from everyone; caregiver believes they are helping; can create a barrier to getting further help. Helpful Interventions: Involve family member in care and care planning; Encourage family member to express painful feelings such as guilt, loss and anger.
  • ANGER: Resulting from the physical, emotional, financial burden of providing care. Can stem from feelings of loss and abandonment. Angry feelings can cause guilt. Helpful Interventions: Discuss anger at the disease rather than at people. Encourage interaction with other families going through the experience. Listen without judging or taking sides. Always schedule some quality time for yourself if you are the primary caregiver. You should have, at least, 2 hours “off”, at least 3 times a week to engage in activities that you enjoy and give you the opportunity to interact with people who will not discuss your LO disease with you. This is of utmost importance for your own and your LO wellbeing. Plan scheduled off-hours ahead of time and have family members agree to that schedule.

Dementia and Alzheimer Care givers

Number 3 will blow your mind!

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