A Surefire Way to Protect Family Bonds in the Face of an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Was someone you love recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's? Make this your new mantra: Get mad at the disease, not at each other.

Alzheimer's caregiver champion Lisa Gwyther of Duke University Medical Center has dispensed that maxim to decades of family caregivers. Though you're probably still wrapping your head around what dementia will mean for you and your family, one thing is certain: It can draw you together or tear you apart.

One of the most protective things you can do for your family? Talk -- even if you've never been a chatty clan before. Some tips:

  • Start talking early. Avoiding the subject of Alzheimer's only makes it an ever-bigger elephant in the room.

  • Keep talking. This is part of your everyday life. Alzheimer's talk needn't take over your life -- but neither should it be relegated to the shadows.

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  • Avoid secrets or partial disclosures. Families who fail to keep everyone on the same page often wind up with more alienation and disagreements later.

  • Share information, including problems with new symptoms, concerns about money or health, medical updates. This makes it easier to collaborate together to solve problems as they crop up.


almost 2 years ago, said...

It would be great to have more articles, etc. in this vein. My siblings (3 brothers and 1 sister) and I mostly communicate via email. It's hard for me to share concerns with my sister (who lives closest to Mom and has most physical contact) because she immediately gets anxious and wants to move my mom to a nursing home (not necessary and not a realistic option, financially). Any help, suggestions, etc. about improving interfamily communication is much appreciated! Shlomit


about 3 years ago, said...

My wife and I have not avoided the subject of her early Alzeimers, but I will bring the subject up more often than in the past. Thanks, John Cecil


almost 4 years ago, said...

Someone had posted on AARP's website about their loved one being diagnosed with this disease and was asking for help. Now, I can share this info. I find it difficult sometimes to support or comfort a caregiver when I'm new to caring for in-laws. This is another plateau of your life when you are a senior citizen and retired too. Your whole life changes.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Being mad at the disease works most of the time for a caregiver spouse. It has for me. 'Being mad at the disease' does nothing more than pierce the surface when adult offspring are not able to separate their parent's disease-driven behavior from his behavior of their youth - a strict, honest. hardworking successful man from whom they always sought approval. This is especially true if the offspring does not live close enough to observe for themselves daily or at least weekly that the two may appear similar but are in fact not the same. Updating family regularly with medical care, research, behavioral, physical and dietary changes either via e-mail, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Log, phone and/or in person drains caregiver energy and emotional health.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Being exposed to the wisdom of talking it out, not hiding it, has been a real help!


almost 5 years ago, said...

It reinforced my own mantra which is working very well.


almost 5 years ago, said...

I will try to remember to be angry with the disease not my husband. i do find myself resenrful at times.


almost 5 years ago, said...

keep talking.


almost 5 years ago, said...

The most important thing that was helpful to me is that we have to keep talking and sharing information with each other. My dad has Alzheimers and this past Thursday he was at my neice house and he was suppose to follow her to the bank but went the wrong way and was lost for 9hrs, my mom didn't tell us until Saturday. For me that brought it to the front that what he has is real, i can tell in his face that he has a hard time remembering, all we can do is tell him that we love him and make him laugh alot, and that seems to take the edge off!!


almost 5 years ago, said...

i found this article to be extremely helpful. I is extremely hard for me to see my mom so sick. I am so angry, because i see what this disease is doing to her.... I want her to fight it as long as she can, but she just seems to just be giving up. she was dianosed about 2 yrs ago. She always taught me to fight my muscular dystrophy and to never quit fighting......I just wish she would try [at least] to do the same. I know you cant control, the AD, but cant you at least try to fight it?!


over 5 years ago, said...

reminding me to be mad at the disease and not the person, need to remember that more