The significant event that most family members fear is when the person with dementia no longer remembers your name or who you are. Often by this stage the person with dementia has already experienced the following over many years:
• increased forgetfulness
• difficulty concentrating
• decreased work performance
• difficulties managing finances
• difficulty travelling alone to new places
• have trouble completing complex tasks
• may be in denial about their symptoms
• they may withdraw from family and friends
• socialization becomes difficult
• they need assistance to complete their daily activities
(eg bathing, dressing, preparing meals)
• significant memory loss (eg forget their address etc)
Imagine what it’s like to struggle with everything above, every single day & worry about why you are doing it, and have to experience the impact it has on your friends & family. People who used to come up to you and chat, now sidestep you because they don’t understand dementia and all that comes with it. The feeling of loneliness and fear is often felt years before the person forgets your name.
Below are some positive strategies that I personally found helpful as a family member:
- Acknowledge the dementia and embrace it.
- Every time I feel sorry for myself, I think about what it has been like for the person with dementia.
- Find new ways to keep the emotional connection (adapt to their decline).
- Spend time together (this will ease the fears)
- Simplify everything
- Set the person up for success by not asking questions all the time (eg what’s my name Dad?)
- Learn new ways to communicate (use body language).
- Have Fun…..Enjoy many Memorable Moments (no matter how small they might be)
- Keep Living Life…