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 care for has Alzheimer's can trigger a range of emotions—including anger, fear, frustration, and sadness. Conflicts are common as family members struggle to deal with the changes.

To minimize conflict, address the issues together.

Share responsibility.

When figuring out how you're loved one will be cared for, consider each family member's preferences, resources, and abilities.

Some might provide hands-on care, either in their own homes or in your loved one's home. Others might be more comfortable with respite care, household chores, or errands. You and your family might also choose someone to handle financial or legal issues.

Meet regularly.

To stay on top of your loved one's care, plan regular family meetings. Include everyone who's part of the caregiving team, including family friends and other close contacts. You might also share email updates with the entire family, or send updates through social media resources.

During family meetings, discuss each person's caregiving responsibilities and challenges—and make changes as needed. Be open to compromise and possibilities you hadn't considered on your own.

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

Be honest.

To help diffuse any tension, talk about your feelings in an open, constructive manner. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, say so—and then work together to brainstorm more effective ways to share the burden of your loved one's care. Again, work with a professional if needed.

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. You might join a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers, seek family counseling, or ask for advice from your care team.

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.

Updated: 2015-09-05

Publication Date: 2002-12-05

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