Alzheimer's: Dealing with family conflict

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Alzheimer's: Dealing with family conflict

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the effects on the family can be overwhelming. The reality that someone you love has such a devastating illness can trigger a range of emotions — including fear, sadness, confusion and anger. Conflicts are common as family members struggle to deal with the situation. To minimize these conflicts, address the issues together.

Share responsibility

Consider each family member's preferences, resources and abilities. Some family members may provide hands-on care — either in their own homes or in your loved one's home. Others may be more comfortable with respite care, household chores or errands. Others may be better suited for handling financial or legal issues.

Meet regularly

Plan regular face-to-face family meetings. Include everyone who's part of the caregiving team, including family friends and other close contacts. Discuss each person's caregiving responsibilities and challenges — and make changes as needed. If time, distance or other logistical problems are issues for certain family members, consider conference calls or video conferencing. You can also share email updates with the entire family or start a family blog.

If your family meetings tend to turn into arguments, consider asking a counselor, social worker or other professional to moderate.

Be honest

Talking about your feelings in an open, constructive manner can help defuse tension. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, say so — then work together to brainstorm more effective ways to share the burden of your loved one's care.

Be careful to express your feelings without blaming or shaming anyone else. Use "I" statements, such as "I'm having trouble juggling my own schedule with all of Dad's appointments." Keep an open mind as you listen to other family members share their thoughts and feelings.

Don't criticize

There are many "right" ways to provide care. Respect each caregiver's abilities, style and values. Be especially supportive of family members responsible for daily, hands-on care.

Consider counseling

If you're concerned that the stress of Alzheimer's will tear your family apart, seek help. Consider joining a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers or seeking family counseling. Remember, working through conflicts together can help you move on to more important things — caring for your loved one and enjoying your time together as much as possible.

Last Updated: 2010-03-18
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