Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Family problems and Alzheimer's

This is a topic that was completely unexpected when our dad was diagnosed.  Regrettably, it is all too common.

Several months ago, one of my dad's doctors asked me how my family was getting along.  Is everyone in agreement?  Is anyone quarreling?  Is everyone on the same page?  I told him that my siblings, and I are all on the same page, and in agreement, and fully supportive of our mom, and our dad.  He got a look of surprise on his face and said, "Well, that's great because it is really unusual for a family to get along through all of this.  Eighty percent (80%) of the patients I treat have horrible family issues because of how they perceive someone is being cared for by the caregiver.  Your family is blessed not to be one of them!"

But, we are.  We are one of them.  While it is true that my immediate family has maintained a wonderful, and very supportive relationship through this (we are closer than we have ever been!), it is not true of many in my dad's extended family.  In fact, there are some who no longer consider us family.  Sad, but true. We still love them, and consider them family, and have to choose over, and over, and over, and over again to forgive them when we hear the things they are saying about our family.

And we wonder...why?  How could our family do this to us?  How could our friends believe the things they are being told?  Why aren't they supporting us at a time when we need them the most?  We need them. They are part of our dad.  We don't want our children to lose that connection to their grandfather.

I wish someone would stand up for us.  I wish people would stop and think about the things they are being told, and then come ask us questions, so we can tell them the truth.  There are always two sides to every story.

My siblings have tried to talk to those who seem to be in disagreement with us. They have tried to address their concerns.  They have tried to explain our actions.  They have tried to explain this awful disease.  They have tried...  It was to no avail.  We will never see eye-to-eye on this.

So, what do we do now?  We put out one fire at a time.  We get angry.  We choose to forgive.  We hear more lies.  We get angry.  We choose to love...because love is a choice, not a feeling.  We choose to pray for them.  We pray for us...that we will not become bitter.  We continue to live in this nightmare, and yet, we find joy because we know we are not alone...God has not forsaken us, nor our dad.  We encourage each other.  We put our heads together, and look for a way to make dad better (always looking for that precious balance of medications!), or at least comfortable.  We try to support and encourage our mom because this is even more difficult on her than it is on us.

If you are one of the eighty percent who are dealing with family problems...I am so, so sorry.  There is enough stress with this disease, without having to deal with family problems on top of it.  I'm afraid I don't have any really good advice for you, except...pray.  Please pour your heart out to God, so you do not become bitter.  Choose to love instead of hate.  Choose to bite your tongue instead of spewing words that will not change the way they view, or treat you.  Find someone who supports you, who you trust, that can listen to you when you need to vent.

And sometimes, you have to choose to walk away.  I have family members who no longer want me to be in their family.  It hurts.  It makes me really sad.  I not only grieve the loss of my dad, but the loss of aunts, and uncles, and cousins who I love dearly.  I have had to make the choice to walk away, and be grateful for the family that I still have.  And, even though it continues to hurt, I walk in peace because God knows my heart.

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