If the person with Alzheimer’s is a member of your family, your immediate family is likely to be your primary source of support and relief. Siblings often trade off care duty and share financial obligations.
But there are tremendous emotional benefits to a united family, too. Decision making is much easier when families are in general agreement. You’ll also be less likely to feel guilty or isolated, second-guess yourself, or waste mental energy feeling resentful or unappreciated if you can all work toward consensus (or at least mutual respect).
Having the support of your partner and children, if you have them, similarly removes a huge source of stress.
Work to keep everyone on the same page regarding the person’s condition and the important decisions that must be made. When there’s friction, consider bringing in a third party — such as a respected relative or a neutral geriatric care manager — to mediate.
Be aware from the get-go that Alzheimer’s caregiving can become a source of marital conflict if your partner feels that you’re neglecting him for your “other” family. Take care not to discount criticisms in this vein. And do what you can to keep your other relationships strong. You may need to bring in outside care to achieve this goal, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you do. Your relationships with your partner, family, and close friends will likely outlive the person with Alzheimer’s if tended well.
Alzheimer’s-related services offer practical and emotional support that can transform a difficult time into one with pleasant moments, too. What’s more, learning about respite care, caregiver training, and assistive devices to make physical care easier has been found to ease stress and delay the need to place a loved one in a nursing home, according to a 1997 Urban Institute report.
You’ll particularly need outside support if you’re coping with wandering, sundowning, or disturbed sleep.
You may be surprised by the variety of people, programs, and devices available to make your life easier, many of them at little expense. Start by conferring with the doctor of the person you’re caring for and branch out to specialists, geriatric care consultants, therapists, and community programs such as respite care. Alzheimer’s disease associations and support groups are often free and a great way to receive emotional support as well as to learn caregiving tips and ideas.
For some great tips on how to communicate with your loved one with Alzheimer’s check out this great resource.