Believe it or not, not everyone understands how dementia happens or even what causes it. People have been diagnosed with the condition only to have friends, and family question or shun them.
Whether it’s through a lack of caring or understanding those living with dementia have reported friends not wanting to keep in touch, family members immediately assuming they’re going to die and workplace colleagues patronising them unnecessarily. One of the worst things people say is ‘why bother, they won’t remember’ which is both very selfish and cruel. Dementia isn’t instantaneous. People live well with dementia for many years and chances are if you’ve been recently diagnosed you’ll still be able to do today, everything you did yesterday.
There are so many misconceptions about dementia, how it affects people and the impact it has on families. Yes, it’s a progressive disease that will eventually take its toll but not straight away. Cutting contact with someone living with the condition may deprive you, and them of many years of friendship. Forcing a person to leave their job prematurely will leave you without a good employee.
Having dementia itself doesn’t make you stupid, incapable or helpless and no one should be made to feel that way especially by family members. No matter what stage someone’s at they should always be treated with respect, kindness and dignity. Later on, they might not remember things or people but you remember them so don’t be a stranger!
It is a gradual decline, not a quick one. It has many different stages, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms nor even have the same journey. Emotionally, they are still the same people, memory loss is common but emotions don’t decline in the same way.
Even those in the later stages are still able to communicate likes and dislikes, have a laugh, play simple games or just enjoy spending time with a friendly face. You should always try to see the person, and not the disease even though it may wear their face from time to time.
I’m including this passage from a previous article because I feel it’s so relevant:
“Your memory test results have indicated there’s a high possibility of Alzheimer’s Disease and further conversations lead to a diagnosis of the condition. However, you’re feeling positive as there’s lots of help and support out there and family are showering you with love. You’ve looked at the ‘living well with dementia’ literature and are well aware that things will change but it’s not all going to happen overnight. In fact, years can go by before Alzheimer’s Disease progresses to the next stage.”
Yes, eventually you will decline and things will change over the years but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Even those with advanced dementia can be happy, content and live well with the right resources and support. One of the best things families can do is actually increase visits!
Communication is a fantastic tool to help fight the disease while social isolation may speed up symptoms. Again ‘ you’re no longer able to remember who’s who even though you feel happy in their presence. Communication isn’t what it was, words and phrases no longer make sense and sometimes you’re silent for a long time.’
If you know someone with dementia or have been recently diagnosed yourself the best thing you can do is talk to those who have first-hand knowledge of the condition. Don’t scare yourself reading random web pages online, find out the truth about dementia and how it can be managed for many, many years.
Lastly, they may not know but you do. Have you forgotten all the good times you’ve had together or the love you’ve shared over the years? Don’t visit them out of a sense of duty because that just builds resentment, do it because you care. You wouldn’t abandon someone going through, or who had survived cancer would you? Living well with dementia is all about social interaction and keeping yourself fit and active, so keep calling, keep visiting and fight your loved one’s condition together.
Feature Image: dementia brainstorm – Photo Credit: – AGE UK