Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that not only affects the individual diagnosed but also the individual’s family. Family members can be affected in many ways by Alzheimer’s disease. The most important thing for families to remember during this very difficult season of life is to stick together and to support one another.
1. Shame and Guilt
Often times family members may experience shame and guilt after a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They may relive all of their past transgressions involving their loved one and feel ashamed of the way they acted or reacted. They may feel guilty for not spending enough time with their loved one before the disease. Many times, family members may also experience guilt over feelings of not wanting to stop their life to care for their loved one. If you or a family member are feeling shame or guilt, it is important to find someone to talk to about these feelings. If left unchecked, they can lead to withdrawal or depression.
Anger is a common effect of Alzheimer’s disease on families. The caregiver in the family often feels anger or frustration with other family members who do not help or who are not doing as much. There may also be anger or resentment for having to be the caregiver and possibly give up many things in their own life. There are even times when a family caregiver my feel anger with the Alzheimer’s patient. It is important for families to remember that anger is a normal emotion, but it needs to be dealt with in a productive manner. Again, this is an issue that can be helped by talking to someone. There are many Alzheimer’s support groups and support hotlines where family members can share their feelings in a safe environment.
Family members may experience grief as they feel they are losing or have lost a loved one. During later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the loved one becomes someone that is a different person and they often do not recognize other family members. This can cause pain and disappointment to the loved one’s family members. Many times, the spouse or partner of the Alzheimer’s patient experience’s this feeling of loss or grief. They are losing the person they love and have shared their life with. They also lose the future they had planned together. Grief is also a very normal feeling for families of Alzheimer’s patients. Support groups and hotlines can be a great help with these feelings as well.
It seems that whenever families are faced with a stressful or challenging situation, conflict is sure to arise. This often happens in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. Often one family member feels the responsibility is placed on them and that others do not pull their weight. Often family members blame or criticize one another instead of working together. This can cause divides in families at a time when they need each other most. It is important to keep lines of communication open through family meetings. Families need to share responsibilities and learn not to blame or criticize each other. If conflict cannot be resolved without mediation, families may need to consider a counselor to help them. The bottom line is the Alzheimer’s patient needs their family and conflict only tears the family apart.
The effects of Alzheimer’s disease are felt by everyone in the family. No one is spared from this devastating disease. Families who understand this will be better equipped to handle the stresses that come along with Alzheimer’s disease. There are many resources available to help families learn to cope with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. If this is true for your family, find the support you need before it is too late.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like information about legal issues that may arise because of Alzheimer’s, please feel free to contact our office or give us a call at 859-684-5333.