Navigating a dementia diagnosis can bring families together if they work toward a common set of goals. Or it can create more stress than is already present if families are at odds with how care is provided. Remember, Mom or Dad put the family first for years, so the goal is to make THEM the priority.
Take a “divide and conquer” approach. Figure out which tasks each person is good at and assign them to that family member. Discuss everyone’s strengths, skills and life situation and communicate often to see how everyone is handling the changes as the disease evolves – siblings, spouses, younger children, and especially keep speaking with the person living with dementia. Remember – they are the focus of your caregiving:
- Don’t second-guess each other’s decisions. Put aside blame. This is new to everyone. Just do your best.
- Different people process in different ways at different rates so it may feel that your family members are all on “different pages.” Be open minded and not critical.
- Communication is vital, don’t assume someone in your family understands something just because you do. You can’t make someone accept circumstances before they are ready, you can only control how you react.
- Don’t make promises to each other that you can’t keep. It will only cause problems.
- If you need help from your family members, be specific not open-ended.
- Not everyone is meant to be a direct, hands-on caregiver, but they can help in other ways, i.e., a sister who helps with finances, a nephew who helps with technology.
- Don’t forget the grandchildren in the family, they are affected by this dementia, too. They love “Nana” or “Grandpa” too and there are ways for them to help.
- Teens and Millennials are whizzes at looking up information on the internet.
- Small children can play games, draw pictures or read out loud with a grandparent.
- If necessary, bring in outside help.
- Professional caregivers can smooth family dynamics and be objective, making your person living with dementia feel less like they are imposing on family members’ lives.
Not sure where to look for help?
Reach out to Dementia Alliance’s Navigation team. Our non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization has over 40 years of experience with all forms of dementia. Dementia Alliance of North Carolina improves the lives of North Carolinians impacted by dementia as well as empower their caregivers through support, education and research. Each program is built on a foundation of CARE that provides Comfort, Assistance, Resources and Education for individuals and families living with dementia.
Remember, you are not alone!
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Q&A on Family Dynamics by Melanie Bunn:
WHAT ARE COMMON CHANGES THAT MAY AFFECT DYNAMICS?
DailyCaring.com offers some tips regarding how siblings can work together: