Seeing the person behind dementia

Some people coming to terms with a loved one’s dementia have likened the feelings experienced during the early days after diagnosis to those felt when dealing with bereavement.

It can feel as if the person they knew so well has almost disappeared and it can often be compared to living with a stranger they don’t recognise or understand anymore. Coming to terms with what has happened can be extremely difficult, and some refer to it as a kind of transitional period for both parties involved.

As we get older, most of us are prepared for the day when our parents will need more support from us, and are somewhat ready for this in the future. However, when dealing with dementia, you find yourself in an extreme role-reversal situation, often with little warning, and the parent you’ve always turned to in times of crisis is no longer there, and it can sometimes feel like an aggressive, rude and somewhat selfish character has replaced them.

In a marriage or partnership, a partner might be acting in an irresponsible or emotional manner, which can almost feel as if they are reverting back to childhood; no longer able to hold their own in the relationship and support the other in their busy lives. Whatever the relationship, the feelings of despair, fear, anger and sadness are equal. Unfortunately, there are no miracle solutions, so acceptance of the situation is pretty much the only alternative.

When you’re ready to move forward, and have accepted that certain aspects of the person may seem like distant memories, you will find that many of the person’s characteristics are still present. Often, finding ways to decrease their anxieties, fears and low self-esteem will enable the person underneath to come through, and some of the familiarities about them will be apparent again.

In the early stages, keeping them involved in everyday life, such as socialising with others and taking part in hobbies and activities, can really help, and research has shown that this type of approach may delay the development rate of the condition.

For people with a far more advanced level of dementia, living the most active life possible is also encouraged. It may only be occasionally that they respond in a certain way to something you are saying or doing, but it can be these brief moments that make such a difference to your relationship, giving you the strength to carry on and enjoy good times together again.

For more information about the activities and social events available at Safe Haven for people living with dementia, please call 01494 854 399 or send us an email at:

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