How to handle feuding with family about helping to care for our mother who has dementia and lives with us

We had a huge argument and they will not talk to me nor will they help me. I'm just trying to figure out how to deal with them and how I can move forward.
Asked by Lisa

Hi Lisa,


I am sorry to hear of your family conflict. Taking care of a loved one, particularly one who has dementia is no easy matter. 


You mention having a “huge argument” recently.  Was this with your mother, or another loved one?  If they are not talking to you, this sounds like Stonewalling and an unhealthy communication style.  John Gottman talks about this and the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which are also to be avoided.  You may want to look these up.  Then again, perhaps the individual needs some space for a short while which can be okay. Taking turns may be needed so that you also can have the space for yourself that you need.  Personal boundaries are essentially the limits or “rules” we set for ourselves within relationships.  On BetterHelp, there are often Groupinars held on this topic that you might be interested in, and sometimes even on more specific topics like caring for aging family. 


It is important to know your own worth and value.  It sounds like this is something you are beginning to question more and what is truly acceptable for you.  Our intuition is very powerful and it is telling you that something is not right.  I would trust and honor that.  In addition, notice what emotions are coming up for you and honor those.  If you feel like you are being taken advantage of in any way, you may need to set some limits.


And know that is okay to say “no” and to be assertive.  It often does not feel comfortable to do so, especially if you are not one that is accustomed to being assertive.  And your family may respond to you differently if they are not accustomed to that behavior from you.  If you want to express some feelings towards them and set limits, start by speaking with “I Statements” and they may respond with less defensiveness.


I recommend to all my clients that they practice consistent self-care.  Do you feel like you are doing enough to take care of yourself?  Calming exercises like deep breathing, yoga and meditation can go a long way.  And many people also find journaling their thoughts and feelings very helpful.  This may be something you want to explore. 


I hope some of this helps.  If you decide to move forward in therapy, seek out a provider who has experience with the elderly, including those with dementia-related disorders.  And of course there is a lot of literature out there on the subject as well.  I know that there are many professionals on this platform who would be more than happy to help you! 


Good luck and be well,