Denial reflects the initial response that nothing is wrong. Denial is the most common and frequently use defense, and it come’s into play from the beginning. Beliefs about senility and old age lead the family to excuse the victim’s forgetfulness and thus help to sustain denial. Family members really may not feel certain that anything serious is wrong.
Over-involvement is stage two of the family’s reaction to Alzheimer’s disease. The primary caregiver may try to meet every need of the affected person, become severely isolated, and refuse assistance or support from any source. Often, the individual demonstrating over-involvement is a spouse, although families as a whole can be over-involved as well.
The third stage of the acceptance process is anger, which can stem from the added physical and emotional burden caused by continued deterioration in the person and the caregiving situation. The caregiver’s dedication and sacrifices may not seem to have made any difference. Also, the resources needed may not be available or may cost more than the family can afford.
Guilt is a normal reaction to Alzheimer’s. However, those involved must take care that the powerful combination of unresolved anger and guilt they feel does not become overwhelming and develop into serious depression. Caregivers may need professional help to resolve unrelenting feelings of anger and guilt.
Acceptance, the final stage of a family’s response to Alzheimer’s disease, is possible when the process of the disease and its effect on others is fully understood. It is easier once the family members have found within themselves the resources to cope with Alzheimer’s. Resources in the community become a part of their strength and are accepted in turn once they fully comprehend the impact of the illness.