We’ve talked before about a dementia diagnosis having an impact on whole families, not just an individual. At Sage House, we’re set up to support everyone affected by a diagnosis of dementia, because we know that it’s a significant adjustment for all concerned. We know that there are big changes to come to terms with, and one of the most challenging is the impact that dementia can have on our relationships.
As Valentine’s Day has been on our minds this week, we wanted to look at how symptoms of dementia can make our human connections harder, and what measures we can put in place when our relationships are showing the strain.
Dementia symptoms vary significantly and will affect each person differently. Depending on the stage you’re at, you may find that your relationships start to change, for several reasons.
Memory loss can mean it becomes more difficult to remember details about loved ones.
Sex drive and sexual preferences can change in couples (especially if the caring dynamic is intensified).
Communication can become harder- particularly when speech is affected.
Mood and behavioural changes will have an impact.
People living with dementia can sometimes misidentify loved ones and people close to them.
The role of a Carer
Being suddenly thrust into the role of a Carer is a significant adjustment to grapple with, for all parties. As someone living with dementia, you may not think of your partner, spouse, or child as your Carer. Accepting help from them and referring to them as your Carer in a medical setting can be really tough. Equally, becoming a Carer for someone you love can result in a whole host of emotions, including frustration, fear and sadness. It can really help to:
Keep the lines of communication open- adapting as necessary when traditional methods of communicating become harder (read more on communication in our Blog, Communication & Language)
Maintain independent hobbies and interests
Accept respite support at times so that you can both have some space and time apart- this is normal and healthy in any relationship.
Three in a marriage
As dementia advances, certain events or feelings may trigger what seems like, a cognitive transportation from one time frame to another. This can be extremely difficult to cope with, for all concerned. In practice this might present as:
The replacement of a partner or child with a version of themselves at an earlier date.
No recognition of the person they’re with- which can be very frightening.
Anger, fear or physical aggression directed at a loved one.
Remonstrations and arguing logic will often make the situation worse- but there are some things you can do to help as a carer, if this situation presents itself.
Try to stay calm.
Talk soothingly- avoid raising your voice (even though you may feel frustrated).
If your loved one is looking for a different version of you, suggest waiting together and doing something habitual, like having a cup of tea to pass the time.
Reassure them that they are safe with you.
Sex and Intimacy in your relationship
This can be a tricky subject to tackle within any relationship. Living with dementia, you may find that your sex drive increases or decreases, and this can be challenging if your partner isn’t on the same page. Talking openly about your preferences and trying to agree on workable solutions for you both will help. For example, if your sex drive has increased but your partner finds theirs has reduced, try to find some other ways of being intimate together. Physical contact and partnership can take many forms. If you’re struggling to reconnect there is help available. Our Wayfinding Team are on hand to support and signpost the road ahead, alongside other resource networks such as Relate.
Our relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing, whether we happen to be living with dementia or not. As with many things, dementia can make navigating these relationships more complex. Whilst change is uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to mean loss. With the right support in place, it is possible to adapt and reconnect with your loved ones. Our Wayfinding Team offer one to one support on every aspect of living with dementia, including overcoming the challenges presented within our personal relationships.
Talking to a member of the team couldn’t be simpler, call us on 01243 888691, or drop us a line. Because even small adjustments to the way we interact with one another can have a profound effect on the quality of our personal connections.