By Patty Aiken, Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

Dementia can test the unity of even the most cohesive families. “Alzheimer’s is very stressful because of the cognitive and behavioral symptoms that can sometimes come with dementia,” said caregiving expert Dr. Amy D’ Aprix, who served on a panel to develop content for the Home Instead Senior Care® network’s free Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging

Through Research and Education® Training Program. Dr. D’ Aprix said that regular communication – whether it’s by email or phone – is the single biggest key to helping families cope with Alzheimer’s disease.

1. Get an accurate diagnosis: Make sure there is an accurate diagnosis so a family knows how to cope, and what to expect.

2. Communicate regularly: Keeping family members updated and informed of all the changes in a loved one’s condition can help alleviate confusion and keep everyone on the same page.

3. Confer with professionals: A family meeting with a professional may be needed to ensure that everyone shares the same information and gets the resources they need.The main caregivers sometimes unwittingly become the keeper of the information and may not want to inundate the other family members.

4. Learn skills and techniques: The behavioral and cognitive symptoms changes that can come with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can be hard to understand. The resources of the CARE program can help.

5. Expect change and learn to manage it: Dementias are ever-changing conditions. Family caregivers can find solace and support by sharing with others who are facing similar challenges. The Alzheimer’s Association and local support groups can help.

6. Ask for help if you’re the primary caregiver: Perhaps you’re the only one of your siblings in town with a parent. Or maybe you’re the oldest daughter and the one expected to care for everyone. Maybe you’re a spouse. Whatever the circumstance, caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias should look for support if needed.

7. Tune into the main caregiver’s needs: If you’re not the main family caregiver; be attentive to the one who is. Otherwise, resentment can fester. Look at what needs to be done and how the primary caregiver can get respite.

8. Assign tasks: Even family members who live out of town can do things to help. Make a list of all that needs to be done and ask people to step up to the plate. Money management is among things that can be done long distance.

9. Consider the family legacy: What will the family dynamic be after your senior loved one is gone? What do you want the legacy of this caregiving experience to be? What kind of relationships do you want with your siblings? Make sure the stress of caregiving doesn’t damage your relationships with loved ones.

10. Keep a Journal: A journal in the home can keep all family caregivers on the same page. Make daily notes of successes and techniques used and any changes in the loved one.