Alzheimer’s Disease as an Only Child

Stages of Dementia

We all wish for the perfect family where everyone can work together to support our parents or spouse as they go through the different stages of dementia.

Over the years, I have had many clients who dream and wonder what it would be like to have siblings that would be there for them to help out during this unplanned situation. Yes, there are some families that work together as a cohesive group, and they are a pleasure to work with.

But these families are few and far between.  

Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy – being an only child and having the perfect supportive family to help you through your loved one’s stages of dementia is often a fantasy. For many caregivers, the expectation of their family members stepping up to help with their loved one will never be a reality.

The majority of families that I work with are all on different pages than their siblings. Heck, sometimes they aren’t even in the same book!

As I mentioned in Alzheimer’s Care and the Deadbeat Sibling Club, past family feuds, sibling rivalry, entitlement, birth pecking rights, geography, job hierarchy, and divorce all come into play for siblings when dealing with a family member going through dementia.

And as a therapist and coach, it’s not always pretty. Actually, it often becomes down right nasty.

It may sound harsh, but if you asked caregivers with less than helpful siblings if they wished to be only children during this process, the answer would often be yes. 

Siblings can behave badly – no matter what age.

In my practice it is not unusual to call a family meeting. These meetings are often necessary because siblings are unaware, in denial, or quite frankly – some could care less about their parents.

I’m not just talking about siblings who live out of state. I have lost count of the family members that I’ve counseled and coached who lived within 5 miles, or even just next door, to their parents and rarely see them.

As for the out-of-towners, many are what I refer to as the “Flock of Seagulls.” Family members who fly in during holidays or on vacations, and offer unwanted advice to the family members that are acting as caregivers. Essentially, dumping all over the hard work the caregivers are doing, and then fly off to continue with their life and vacation.

Yep, getting extensive advice from those who haven’t walked in your shoes is always a welcome treat! Then factor in that every financial and physical decision is going to have to be passed through these individuals for approval.

Being an only child when you are dealing with a parent’s dementia can be a blessing in disguise.

Being an only child, although lonesome, has several benefits when dealing with a parent with dementia.

In “Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregivers Complete Survival Guide” I will show you how to be a successful caregiver through the various stages of dementia.

Here are 6 examples why being an only child during this time can be viewed as a blessing in disguise:

1. You make all the decisions. Without having to consult with one or more siblings to determine what is right for your loved one, there is no chance of dispute or delay. 

2. You are not questioned for your decisions. There is no need to have to explain to anyone why you chose to make a difficult decision or change. You are able to decide what is right for you and your loved one without contention.

3. No one is going to legally challenge you. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Siblings often feel strongly about many things, and methods of care can be a big dispute to the point of legal action. Being an only child allows you to be the sole decision maker and you can be assured that you will not be challenged legally. 

4. You can seek outside help that you need. Often times siblings can second guess why outside help is needed or put pressure on caregiving without outside help. As an only child, you can get the assistance you need without being questioned.

5. Not depending on family members to help, and being disappointed when they don’t. Having a sibling gives many caregivers the expectation of assistance. But as you now know, a helpful sibling isn’t always a reality and leads to major disappointment. As an only child, you are free from that disappointment and can’t be let down by anyone else. 

6. Never hearing, “That’s not what Mom/Dad wanted.” You will be the best person for the job, and know exactly what you and your loved one need and want. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

The list that I hear and know personally and professionally is endless, but these are just a few.

As an only child dealing with a loved one who has dementia, you may often feel isolated and lonely. And as the sole caregiver, you are now responsible for caring for a person who is going through difficult moments – and input from someone else could be helpful.

Caring for someone with dementia, with or without a family member’s input, is a big job. Big or small decisions will affect them. As a team we can and will work through this together. You will never again be alone.

If you enjoyed this article and think it could help someone struggling with the stages of dementia, share it with them. It could help more than you know.

Every month, we’re giving away a free copy of “Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival Guide” to a new member of our community. Enter to win a copy by entering your email in the “Subscribe” form on this page. 

Photo courtesy of Mcbeth

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