Living with Change
Living with Change

Part 5: Family Dynamics and Caregiving

Providing care for a family member can bring out the best - and the worst - in everyone involved. People can come together to support each other, or the stress can lead to frustration and conflict between family members.

Past dynamics and family roles often re-surface when dealing with the stress of caregiving. All those old issues and unresolved tensions can often re-emerge.

It is important to remember that everyone will respond to the situation in his or her own way. Frustration can occur if you expect other people to feel or act the same as you. Everyone in the family comes with a different history and perspective, a different relationship with the person who is ill, and a different comfort level with illness and the associated emotions.

Also, family members each have their own strengths. Some will excel at the personal care aspect of caregiving, while others cringe from it. Others may thrive by doing housework, gardening, repairs or dealing with finances. Let people work in the areas where they shine.

Even when two people are both doing the same duty, they may still do it differently. How you provide personal care to your spouse may be different than how his sister does when she relieves you. Different does not mean wrong. Ask yourself whether it is worth butting heads over.

Family meetings are important for keeping everyone up to date regarding the care recipient’s health and delegating duties. The goal at these meetings is not to resolve long-time family issues but to ensure everyone is on the same team and to sort out what needs to be done. They can also be an opportunity for current concerns to be aired and miscommunications to be cleared up.

Author: Barbara Small


Family Caregiving Models

Within families, there are a variety of models by which the caregiving responsibilities may be shared.

Download and print a copy of the activity sheet below.  Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the five models.

Think about your own family and the person you are caring for with dementia.  Take a moment to write a response to each of the questions:

  1. Which model of caregiving exists within your family today?
  2. Which model of caregiving would you like to aim for in the future? 
  3. What needs to happen for you to reach this goal?

Family Caregiving Models

More Learning Resources

First Steps for Families

Ways to Help

Reducing Caregiver Stress

A Handbook for Care