Living with Dementia in the Family

Living with dementia in the family can bring certain challenges. Often relations with the person affected can change and traditional family roles will shift. Responsibilities can increase for those caring for someone who has dementia whilst the need for day-to-day assistance also increases.

However, living with dementia doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think and families often report living in a happy, manageable situation. Understanding how dementia affects the family can better equip and prepare you for your approach. In this article, we explore key ways of how living with dementia impacts the family.

Living with Dementia: Changing relationships

When a person develops dementia the way they previously interacted in relationships can change. For instance, the person might become more withdrawn socially, preferring to spend time alone, or they might even become more extroverted. Often anxiety levels are heightened as the person is unable to handle their past responsibilities. Their ability to maintain regular social engagements can change alongside their social needs generally.

Living with Dementia: Children Understanding

Due to a lack of understanding about dementia, children can often develop incorrect ideas about the nature of dementia, where it comes from and how it develops. Taking the time to explain to children about dementia can alleviate any concerns they might have. It is normal for a child to typically feel at the centre of attention within the family which can then alter with the increased responsibilities of caring for someone with dementia. It is critical to ensure the children continue to receive the emotional support they need at this time.

Living with Dementia: Changing family dynamics

Traditional roles within the family may be affected by dementia. If the person normally in charge of financial responsibilities develops dementia, it may be necessary for another member of the family to take over these responsibilities. It could also be the person who provided all the meals so other members of the family will need to adapt. This can be an overwhelming transition and support amongst all family members is vital during this time.

Living with Dementia: Becoming Frustrated

When someone develops dementia, they often require assistance on a day-to-day basis. They may feel an utter sense of failure and bewilderment that they cannot remember how to do previously normal activities. Loss of memory is common and, over time, the sufferer may not even recognise normal household objects. In a situation like this, both the sufferer and carer can get frustrated. The challenge of patience will be enormous and carers need to realise that they should take a break to recuperate, unwind and regain their strength to return. Calendar dates should be scheduled and agreed upon amongst the family to enable time out for the appropriate person/s.

Living with Dementia: A Sense of Failure

The lack of understanding of dementia and the sense of injustice when it develops can manifest feelings of failure in those close to the person with dementia. Questions of “why?” and “how?” often go unanswered. Additionally, it is not a straightforward illness as physically the sufferer can be full of health. Of course, no one is to blame and it has been often shown that living with dementia is manageable and can be a happy life for both the person with dementia and the carers.

Living with Dementia: Communication

Good communication between family members and all those directly involved in the day-to-day life of the person diagnosed with dementia is essential. Being open and communicative between family members can promote well-being and understanding while also reducing the instances of stress and tensions coming to a head as a result of miscommunication. Writing a diary is also another way of releasing tensions.  When everyone is working together responsibilities can be equally distributed and the pressure taken off a single  individual.

Living with Dementia: Getting Help

There is a wide range of support available to assist in providing advice on how to approach the management of dementia in the family. Maintaining a healthy support structure is essential to the well being of both the person with dementia and those around them. Health care professionals and support groups are an effective source for advice, often being able to suggest new approaches to the management of dementia in a family whilst also providing emotional support.  Find a local Alzheimer’s support group here.

Living with Dementia: Carers Assessment

A Carers Assessment is one way of having your current situation assessed by a health care professional and advice can be given on a different approach, whilst also providing additional forms of support. Click on the link here to access a Carers Assessment.

Living with Dementia: Conclusion

Living with dementia in the family can bring certain challenges but it can still be a happy time. Understanding how dementia affects the family is important in managing an effective approach. Taking the time to explain to children about dementia is vital and accessing support groups is critical in ensuring all information is understood. Most importantly meals should consist of the whole family, wherever possible so that a degree of sociability is upheld and normality instilled.

It is more than possible to have a healthy happy family whilst living with dementia. The impact itself often pulls families together with the same aim and understanding of the situation and families report feeling closer emotionally as a result.

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