Families Can Come Together to Help
Alzheimer’s could also be called a family disease because of the way many families come together to battle the illness and help their loved one and each other. That said, it’s not always easy to include all members of the family in Alzheimer’s care. Here are some tips for all members of the family to get involved with Alzheimer’s care.
Helping Children Understand
One of the most difficult family members to include in Alzheimer’s care is children. It can be difficult for children to understand the disease, and watching a loved one progress through it can be frightening for children.
The Mayo Clinic reports caregivers should explain the disease to children in a straightforward manner, and answer all questions a child may have honestly and simply. Children may ask what is wrong with the senior, or be nervous about what will happen to their loved one next. They may feel confused and hurt that grandma or grandpa does not love them anymore if the senior does not remember them. They may also be afraid that they or their parents will “catch” the disease. It is important for adults to reassure children that this illness is causing their loved one to forget details, and that the condition is not contagious. It can also help to tell them that most people do not get Alzheimer’s disease, the organization reports.
Parents should also be prepared for the opposite reaction – the child may withdraw from the situation or avoid discussing it. It is important to ask children what changes they have noticed in their loved one. This might help a child identify the aspects of the disease that are upsetting to them and talk about them, giving adults an opportunity to reassure them that feeling nervous, sad or angry is okay.
Children may not be the full-time caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, but they can be involved in certain aspects of care. Children can participate in simple tasks with a senior loved one, such as setting the table. It may also be beneficial to the child and the senior to participate in leisure activities together, such as looking at photo albums, doing art or listening to music.
Dealing with Family Conflict
As much as Alzheimer’s disease can bring a family together to care for their loved one, there will undoubtedly be periods of high-stress that can lead to conflict. Whether the family has designated one core caregiver or the care is split between siblings or other relatives, it is important to share some responsibilities, the Mayo Clinic reports. Families should consider each member’s skills, resources and preferences. For instance, if one family member is financially savvy, he or she may be the best person to handle the senior’s money. A relative who does not work may be a good option to provide daily care if they are willing.
It is also a good idea for families to hold regular meetings to discuss the care. Whether this is a phone call or a physical meeting does not matter, but regular family meetings will allow relatives to discuss everyone’s responsibilities and challenges, allowing the opportunity to alter roles.
The Family Caregiver Alliance reports it’s crucial for family members to be open and direct with each other about their feelings, and be realistic about expectations. Caregiving can bring out the best and worst in sibling relationships, so families should never be afraid to involve a third party such as a social worker or religious leader to dissolve conflict.
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