Alzheimer's disease creates major stress in families. Work through family conflicts together so that you can move on to more important things. By Mayo Clinic Staff

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the effects on the family can be overwhelming.

The reality that someone you love has such a devastating illness can trigger a range of emotions — including anger, fear, frustration and sadness. Conflicts are common as family members struggle to deal with the situation.

To minimize these conflicts, address the issues together.

Consider each family member's preferences, resources and abilities.

Some loved ones 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.

Plan regular face-to-face family meetings. Include everyone who's part of the caregiving team, including family friends and other close contacts.

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 time, distance or other logistical problems are issues for certain family members, consider conference calls or video conferencing. You might also share email updates with the entire family, send updates through Twitter or start a family blog.

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

To help diffuse 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.

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.

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 or seek family counseling.

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.

Oct. 04, 2012