American Top 40 radio host Casey Kasem who reportedly suffered from Lewy Body dementia has died. Lewy Body dementia, a type of irreversible progressive dementia, is frequently confused for Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis of the always fatal Lewy Body dementia is a long road for both the patient and family caregivers. On average the Lewy Body dementia patient lives five to eight years with the condition but sometimes longer. This makes for a long exhausting journey for family caregivers.
When an irreversible dementia diagnosis is made in a family, it is common for there to be conflict over opinions on care for the patient. Kasem’s family is certainly no exception. Jean, Kasem’s wife of thirty years had strong ideas of how he should be cared for as the Lewy Body dementia progressed, how his advance directives should be interpreted and how often his adult children (her stepchildren) should be permitted to visit. Kasem’s adult children from his first marriage strongly disagreed with most of how Jean handled their father’s Lewy Body dementia care.
What can we learn from this? There are many sides to the story when it comes to the opinions of family caregivers. Spouses and adult children of a patient with Lewy Body dementia (whether step-children or not) will often disagree. These disagreements sometimes lead to court battles and estrangements as they did for the Kasems. While there are certainly situations in which family caregivers are intentionally abusive or neglectful of their older loved one, usually these conflicts are the result of differing opinions on what type of care is best. Emotions are running high and every family caregiver involved thinks he or she knows best. The ability to be objective and see the other family caregivers’ view of the situation is often non-existent.
Family caregivers conflicted over opinions about care for a loved one with Lewy Body dementia or any other irreversible dementia diagnosis should consider getting help. It is always best to try to reach consensus or at least be civil for the sake of the loved one with Lewy Body dementia. Consider seeking the assistance of a mediator that specializes in family caregiver issues at www.eldercaremediators.com or www.mediate.com if you find yourself in such discord. It is not known if the Kasem family attempted such a strategy. But perhaps mediation would have helped them reduce conflict and anger in the difficult situation of Casey Kasem’s Lewy Body dementia diagnosis and care.