For those caring for a parent with dementia, having a strong support system is crucial. No one should bear the burden of caregiving alone. So, most adult children turn to siblings or other close family relatives for advice, understanding and support. And, while it may get off to a good start, as the months pass, well-intending relatives, busy with their own lives, can fall back into old patterns, leaving the adult child basically on his or her own.
If this sounds like your situation, first, take a deep breath and understand that, in most cases, this is unintentional. We’ve often found that, after encouraging sons or daughters to reconnect with family members, their hard-to-reach sister or brother will say things like “Oh I’m so sorry. I know I’ve been hard to reach. Let me help!” and other similar acts of contrition.
Here are some ways to get family members “back in your orbit” and to help you remain reconnected. You can find additional suggestions through the Alzheimer’s Association, here.
- Start by reaching out. Check in with your siblings or other relatives and friends. It’s a reminder that you’re “still here” and ready to catch up.
- Share your concerns. Be sure to share your concerns about your loved one. It’s a good way of pulling your sibling or friend back into a world that is your day to day reality. Share with them what you are doing and where your frustrations lie.
- Communicate ways you can work together to become closer to each other. Talk about ways you can both share more with each other. Show more interest in their problems and issues and offer your own advice when needed. Support, after all, should work both ways!
- Make a plan to connect regularly. Before you end any visit or phone conversation, be sure to arrange for the next one. Schedule daily, weekly or monthly visits or calls. Put it on your calendars!
- Get outside help. Never underestimate the power of being among other caregivers who understand what you are going through. Dementia support groups provide a lifeline for caregivers who need support and a good sounding board.
Keep in mind that it’s easy for family members to gravitate towards a “status quo” of inaction. Try to put yourself in their place. They may not know how to help or may be up to their ears in their own family issues or work challenges. Furthermore, if you are considered the “rock” of the family, they have probably made an assumption that you are able to handle everything as you have always done in the past. Now is the time to reach out and reaffirm their commitment to your family loved one. With better communication, a plan to keep them more involved and a commitment to yourself to get outside help, your relationships with your siblings and your parent will be healthier. And so will you!