Senior Resources » Home Care » Dementia and Family Conflicts, with Lisa Mayfield

Dementia and Family Conflicts, with Lisa Mayfield

Lisa Mayfield, founder and geriatric care manager of Aging Wisdom, talks about facing family dynamics and conflicts. Even in families where all have tight relationships, an aging parent can bring out conflicts. Challenging and subtle symptoms of dementia mean that our loved ones lose insight in the ways that the disease is affecting them.

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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

The following is a podcast from a qualified senior care provider part on the answers for elders radio show, and welcome everyone to answer her elder’s radio and I am here at the Discovery Conference for the Alzheimer’s Association and we are very fortunate to have some amazing individuals here that are making a difference in the lives of families every single day, and especially the families that are suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. And I have a very special lady here who I met a long time ago and I’m so glad to reconnect a lady who is the founder and in basically geriatric care manager of an amazing organization called aging wisdom, and that is Miss Lisa Mayfield. Lisa, welcome to the show. Hi, Suzanne. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here and see you again, probably at least a decade later. We don’t have any more gray hair. Yeah, I’m changed right our listener listeners don’t know. I’ve gone gray now since then, but it’s kind of fun because obviously you and I’ve kind of had our own separate, you know, paths as we’re helping families and you’ve done a lot of amazing things and one of the things that you’re doing right now, which is so valuable, and that is the whole thing with dealing with conflict with families. And you know, as a geriatric care manager, you’re you’re dealing with that all the time. So obviously you know. I know for my story with my mom, she was the matriarch of the family. She pretty much held the torch and kept everything everyone together and in line, and everybody went back to her house for the holidays and all those things. It was that way and then when my mom started to decline, the family kind of went crazy. Is that is I tell me a little bit about that. Is that common or yes, I would say that it’s pretty unusual that that’s not the case. And I even the most functional, quote unquote, functional families were kids all love each other and seemingly have had really tight relationships through the years. There is something about a parent getting older that brings out really the worst in everyone and the stress, and I think it comes down to really grieving and how hard it is to watch your mom, the matriarch or the family shifting and everyone deals with their own grief differently and I think they end up taking it out on their siblings well. And you know, denial is also not a river in us. You know, it’s a lot of time we may see our loved ones start to fail, but if you’re not in, you know, everyday contact with that parent, you may not necessarily see the signs as somebody that’s there all the time. So there’s that friction between families. Have you found that that’s the case? Right, and I was reflecting the other day, like what there’s so many reasons siblings end up in feuds in relation to their parents, but I was trying to distill it down like if I could pick like the top reasons. What are those reasons? And One, I think, is the more challenging and subtle symptoms of dementia, and with that a piece of dementia is lack of insight, so not being able to see the ways in which the diseases changing you. So you were mentioning denial in families, which is very common, but it also happens with the people whose memories are changed absolutely and their brains don’t allow them to see those change, not to mention the filters are gone rst correct. So they’ll say things. No matter what. You know it’ll come out and it’s like, Whoa, when you are embarrassed when your little, when you’re you had a young child in the grocery store and you’re like, Oh, what are they gonna say next? Whence your parent has dementia, sometimes you have that same reaction. What’s Dad gonna say now? Yeah, but so when the person whose memory is changing, if they can see it, then they’re refusing help and that then puts a lot of pressure on the kids. How do we step in and help mom when she won’t let us? And that’s a huge issue because I think I have often talked to families about as their their parent is declining, their feeling more vulnerable, and so what they’re going to do is hang on to that which is most familiar and then all of a sudden, use their adult daughter or son, which, by the way, you still need to say the daughter of the sun, come in and inform them that you’re going to take them out of their home to a place of the unknown where they already felt, you know, vulnerable as it is, it brings up absolute terror within them and because of the pride factor, it’s going to come out as real obstinates, and so it’s breaking down that piece of understanding the process of what they’re dealing with, and I think that’s one of the things that you’re so well at helping families to do well, and I think you touched on one of the kind of the second common reasons I see families feuding is that delicate balance of independence versus safety, and you’ll different siblings will fall on that continuum in different places. When sister wants mom to be completely safe and wants to put her in a memory care unit, another brother, probably who lives out of town and around much, he thinks mom’s fine, we don’t need any helse act letter, you know, it’s okay if she you know this or that happened or I don’t want to and really that brother made just not want to deal with it. Correct. Now you know it’s it’s in and that’s getting families all on the same page of are we ready to have a united force? How do we work together? That’s probably one of the hardest things that I find is that finding that unity within families. I mean, what, what is your experience with that? Well, you’re exactly right. It’s unity about trying to get on the same page of what is happening with mom. What are the options? What are what are the best options, given what we know about mom’s situation and getting together and the work that we do at aging wisdom is geriatric care managers is we can provide that unbiased, neutral person to often it helps to get the siblings together without their parent to start with, to the way in about this is what we think is going on. This is the care options that exist get the siblings to have a candid conversation with each other without their parent to again talk about where do we want to be? An independence versus safety and trying to get everyone in that unity right, which often and is hard to do if you don’t have any kind of third person, unbiased facilitator to help those conversation. It can be. So we are talking again to Lisa Mayfield and Lisa, you’re with a company called aging wisdom in your geriatric care manager and our viewers, are listeners may not know about what geriatric care manager does. Right, I’m happy to talk about it. We are sometimes known as geriatric care managers. We are also can be known as aging life care professionals and there’s people like me and us at aging wisdom all over the country. I am honored to serve currently as the president of the Aging Life Care Association. So very proud of just our profession in gener wonderful and here at aging wisdom we provide consultation services to help families navigate the transitions of aging and feuding families when you’re dealing with dimension. And where do you serve in this area? We serve at aging wisdom kind of all of King County, but there are people, as I mentioned, like me all over the country and right more than happy to connect people with professionals across the country as well. That’s awesome. So if I have a family that’s feuding, obviously what can I do? Is a loved one or adult child? How can I bust deal with that? And well, I think there are a number of ways. At one trying to see if you can get your siblings together in one room to talk about it. Often it can be hard to get them all to make that a priority and that’s where pulling in a professional like a care manager might be helpful. It kind of creates a more of a priority and my get that brother out of town to fly in to take it more seriously. I think it can be helpful to engage in elder law professional as well to make sure estate planning has been done. There are mediators who specialize in this work when families really can’t get to write and right well, and I think to is understanding that I least when I have conversations. Number One, I hate it when I hear stories that things were sprung on them, you know, on mom or dead. Give them time to digest things. Saying Mom, I’ve, you know, as your daughter, I’ve been concerned about some things. Would I would really like to sit down and talk to you about something. Could we make a time next week to do that then? These are the topics that I would like to discuss, so that they get a chance to kind of digest it where you’re not just springing it on them, and I think that’s I mean, that’s kind of what I usually advise people. Tonight, I’m nodding. Yes, a nail on the head is that. Part of what we encourage families is to pick your battles. Yeah, like not going guns ablazing and telling them everything you’re worried about, but also start small. Often Times the little over eager daughter that wants mom perfectly safe, wants twenty four seven care. It’s never going to work. Baby steps, starting small. Yeah, small can. That’s why having the conversations early, while mom or dad is still independent, to understand what their wishes are, you know, and and what are the agreements of what’s going to happen. And realize too, that you’re not locked in because things can happen along the way and treatment, you know, different types of treatment can change, different types of outcomes can change. So you know, understand that. You can have a basic plan, but it’s also okay to do right by your parent if it means, you know, to digress from the plan. And I think that’s adjustments right and and those adjustments are important. Absolutely so, Lisa. How do we reach you? Well, you can find me at aging wisdomcom. If you don’t live in the Seattle area or your older adult lives somewhere else, you can also visit aging lifecare dot org to find somebody like me somewhere else. MMM, that’s great, and I do you have a phone number for people can call too, zound and six four, five, six five, one hundred and fifty five. That’s great. And at just to remind our listeners Lisa is here to help families and certainly she’s there to help with any sort of conflicts that you guys might have or any sort of, you know, questions that you might have in involving the care of your loved one and certainly, Lisa, you can go in and you’ll work with a family you know overall to find the best solution for your loved one and especially being here at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference, you’re working right now teaching that kind of stuff absolutely families right now. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve written a snake. Great to see you again. Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here. Thanks for doing this work. Answers for elders radio show with Suzan Newman hopes you’ve found this podcast useful in your journey of navigating senior care. Check out more podcast like this to help you find qualified senior care experts and areas of financial, legal, health and wellness and living options. Learn about our radio show, receive our monthly newsletter, receive promotional discounts and meet our experts by clicking on the banner to join the Senior Advocate Network at answers for elders, radiocom. Now there is one place to find the answers for elders.


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Originally published June 01, 2019

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