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The Nebulous World Of Family Dynamics And Dementia

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.  ~Barbara Bush

My thoughts today pertain to the nebulous world of family dynamics. Although no two families are the same, there are plenty of similarities worth discussing when it comes to the burden of caregiving for someone with dementia.  Among family members there never seems to be an equal distribution of work, or interest, or investment related to the progressive demands of dementia care.  This leads to disharmony among siblings and spouses, children and parents.  I see it time and again in the most functional of families- from the earliest seed of resentment to full-blown family feuds- caring for someone with dementia changes things.

Idealistically speaking, dementia caregiving should be a team effort. However, the team approach is inherently flawed due to factors like geography, employment, financial resources, and other obligations.  Frequently the care of an older adult with dementia falls primarily on one adult child.  This is the child who lives closest, or who has the most accessible house, or who has the most “free” time- it is a decision born out of necessity and default.  And while other family members initially pledge support and appreciation, the best of intentions inevitably dwindle over time.

I want to give a shout out to the full time caregiver.  I am in awe of you and your dedication- although I am sure you would trade the accolades and applause for an extended break from the madness. And to the spouses, the siblings, and the other relatives of the caregiver, I encourage you to help however you can.  I know that conflict sometimes exists in the way the care is provided or the decisions that are made, but the truth is that the full time caregiver needs help, recognition, and support.  Express gratitude regularly.  Offer to help however you can.   Buy some groceries or run a few errands.  Little things will make a big difference along this long and difficult road.

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