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Decisions for Parent with Alzheimers

on January 7, 2012

Siblings dealing with decisions for a parent with Alzheimer’s face special challenges. If handled well, these decisions can bring the family closer together. Handled poorly, these same decisions can drive a wedge between family members and at worst, lead to a family divorce. When parents show symptoms of dementia, family members have to tackle some tough issues. These include financial decision making, managing medications (or even agreeing to see a doctor,) finding a caregiver and perhaps the toughest issue – seeking long term care.   

Here are some common problems that families run into regarding facing decisions on behalf of their parents:

  • Some family members may be unwilling to accept their parents’ change in abilities to manage their checkbook, drive safely, prepare balanced meals and look after their own health. Others may overestimate their parent’s ability to continue to live independently.
  • Not all family members are equally involved in their parents’ lives. Some members may live far away whereas others are actively involved and have frequent contact. Sometimes proximity isn’t a factor – certain siblings are frequently too busy with their own children, work, etc. Those who have remained close may feel they should have more weight in the decision. The post at that the responsibility often is shouldered by daughters living in close proximity to their parents.
  • Family members can also differ in the level of financial contribution they might have to make for their parents’ care. Those family members who contribute more may feel that they should have more say in the decision.

 A family who forms a Family Council is likely to face tough issues which serve their parents’ best interests and promote harmony among family members. Here are some of our recommendations to make the process go smoother. 

  • Don’t wait to the last minute. Be proactive in starting a Family Council. Start the process before you need to make a decision. Avoid having to make a decision under pressure and in a rush. A parent with advancing symptoms of Alzheimer’s may not be fit to appoint a Power of Attorney and may have to be conserved. Conservation is expensive, as well as tedious. You can learn about the issues at
  • Approach the situation with some formality. Identify who will be involved and when you will meet. It is best to meet on an ongoing basis to talk so that all members can actively participate.
  • Share information openly. Make sure that all members have the same information.
  • Meet regularly. It often takes several meetings to resolve care-related issues.
  • Document your conversations so that you have a record of your discussions.
  • Have your parents participate. You want the conversation to be as open as possible. Your parents should have a voice and be able to make their wishes known.  

Most importantly, decide how you will decide. Start by recognizing that everyone has different opinions and there will be disagreement. Decide how you will deal with disagreement by choosing a decision making method. Should majority rule or must everyone agree? Can family members who are more involved or have greater financial responsibility have a bigger weight in their decision? Perhaps the answer is to appoint one family member as the final authority.  

Making decisions for a parent with Alzheimer’s can be focused toward the best interest of the parent, and produce the best outcome, when using the Family Council approach.

Mary Burger writes dementiadvice. She is the owner of A Brand New Day a full-spectrum long term memory care facility in Redding CA.



2 responses to “Decisions for Parent with Alzheimers

  1. Nice post about #Alzheimers. This is a link that can certainly be shared with many… We all know someone coping with #Alz.

  2. Thank you for taking time to write this write-up. It is been very valuable. It couldn’t have arrive at a far better time for me!

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