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Caring For Someone With Dementia
No-one ever knows how a mental illness will affect the family or the person with symptoms. According to alz.co.uk there is an estimated 46.8 million people with dementia worldwide.
That’s a lot of people! Making it likely that most of us will have some experience of someone with dementia. Typically, it can be exhausting being the carer of someone with dementia due to the repetitive and uncertain nature of the illness.
Since there is so much confusion and forgetfulness involved, it is not uncommon to be asked the same question repeatedly, and it can be easy to ‘switch off’ and become despondent, with some people feeling angry towards the person.
Patience is crucial, both for yourself and for them. Try to remember that the questions are to help them gain some kind of reassurance. Once they have got something in their head, they can be like a dog with a bone so to speak, but never really hear the answer deep enough for it to have a lasting impact on them.
They may have a commentary running in their head wondering why they are doing what they are doing, or how they ended up where they are; in a different room, in the garden, upstairs etc. It’s as if they get a thought and go into automatic pilot, there is no thought train that can be held long enough to understand what they are doing or why they are doing it.
It is important for you as a carer to stay strong emotionally and keep yourself healthy. If its possible and available, take any help and support offered by friends and family. Take time out for yourself on a regular basis, either weekly or as often as possible.
If you have no-one around to help you, see if there is any support via a local dementia group that may be able to offer some respite or counselling if you need it.
If a husband or wife is coping with their partner, it can be really upsetting to see the person you’ve always known disappear and their behaviour changing. It is important to honour how you feel and greave for them if that feels right.
You are going through loss; loss of what you had, loss of your relationship and what you have known for so long. It is a difficult time for both of you.
Be kind to yourself as this helps you to be more able to cope with whatever comes. Many people report feeling guilty, as if they are responsible in some way for their partner/spouse’s dementia. However, feeling like this can eat away at you and leave you feeling drained and less able to cope.
We never know the reasons why anything happens, and we each have our path to follow. All we can do is go with what is in front of us and not be afraid to ask for help. We all need help sometimes, asking for help does not mean you have failed, it means you're human.
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