After a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, family members typically step in to manage financial and healthcare decisions when he or she no longer has legal capacity to make these choices.
As devastating of a situation as this already is, it can become more so if family conflicts arise. Below, we discuss a few critical steps patients and their families can take to prevent or resolve such arguments.
- Talk to your loved one. Soon after a diagnosis, it can be crucial to talk to your loved one about what he or she wants in terms of end-of-life plans. Make sure he or she has an estate plan, including advance directives and a will. Take the time to ask questions and ensure he or she has the necessary legal documents in place. While this might not be possible if your loved one's illness is in the later stages, it can be very helpful if he or she still has legal capacity.
- Understand the different roles. Conflicts often arise because parties have different opinions on what should happen or what a loved one would have wanted. This is one reason why it is crucial to understand the various roles that may be assigned. One person may have legal authority to make decisions about health care, while another has authority to make financial decisions. The people in these roles are the ones who can make decisions on behalf of a loved one. If you take issue with their decisions or behavior, you can discuss your options with an attorney.
- Consider peaceful resolution methods. Emotions often run high in these upsetting situations, so it might seem like a court battle is inevitable. However, going to court can permanently destroy relationships; it can also be expensive. As such, consider options like mediation to resolve difficult legal disputes more quickly and peacefully.
Family conflict is not uncommon when someone is suffering from dementia, but that doesn't mean it is inevitable. Understanding your loved one's plans and wishes, respecting the various roles and opting for peaceful solutions over contention can help everyone cope a little easier under such upsetting circumstances.