How Dad is Learning to Face Conflict

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • More silver linings in my family's experience with caring for my Mom, who has Alzheimer’s Disease...

    Mom was the center of the Martin family. She was the pillar we all turned to in times of crisis, in times of celebration, and in times of need. Since her diagnosis in September 2005, each family member has stepped into new roles, and novel personality characteristics have emerged in each individual. This blog discusses another aspect of how my dad’s approach to life has been changed.

    Dad has always reacted adversely to familial conflict. I can remember being a teenager, confronting him with some problem (HUGE in my mind at the time), and his insistence on not talking about it. Now, 30 years later, he is having to learn how to handle conflict (truly huge this time around) due to Mom’s situation -- Alzheimer’s and her continual struggle with failing lungs due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
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    The conflicts Dad now deals with can range from encountering problems with Mom’s care at the nursing home to handling Mom in a bad mood -- or when she is is darn sure that she is somewhere other than where she is, at least physically speaking. As a result, Dad is learning to develop his own voice in facing and handling different types of conflict.

    Dad has had to learn how to complain in an effective way to the nursing home administration when Mom’s oxygen is set at the wrong level or her canister is not refilled. He is learning that one comment to the director of nursing may get some changes, but that the staff’s attention to detail probably will lapse at some point, so he will continue to be vigilant and outspoken.

    Even harder for Dad has been dealing with struggles with his wife. He has dampened Mom’s explosive Alzheimer’s-driven reactions by controlling his own behavior. Mom is a competitive, independent woman who at various times in her life would not let an issue die. This tendency takes on a less constructive tone due to her dementia. Thus, now it’s imperative (but also very difficult) for family members to figure out how to defuse a conflict before Mom explodes. For instance, Dad is learning how to agree with her (even if she’s wrong) in order to cool Mom’s rage.

    An average life, one without Alzheimer's, is full of different types of conflict encountered on a daily basis. Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s puts you in a situation where you are going to face conflict in ways you’ve never dreamed about. Learning to handle conflict is important for any person – no matter how old or set in one's patterns – and can make a tremendous difference in not only your loved one’s health, but your own peace of mind. My dad is learning that lesson now, and it’s not a moment too soon.

Published On: November 29, 2006