Dementia is cruel. It robs the individual of themselves, slowly, gradually. Their memories, their roles, their skills. Their ability to remember the name of the person or people closest to them. Their relationship to those people. Sometimes, they can become so distressed by this that they no longer feel safe with their loved ones, leading to them to display hostile behaviours in a bid to keep themselves safe – if there was a man you didn’t recognise in your bed, wouldn’t you want him out? Wouldn’t you hit out, shout, scream? Call the police?
As a health professional working with such situations, I have explained this many times to many families, in terms of the impact to the person with dementia. Having read other blogs by those caring for loved ones with dementia who no longer recognise them, I realise that we don’t often put emphasis on the family member who has been forgotten and how this impacts on them. They are no longer recognised as the loving husband of fifty years or the adult child still living in the family home. They are too often seen as an intruder or, as I sadly saw in one case, the wife’s younger lover (in fact, the couple’s 18yr old son). How do you take this on board? How do you adjust to this new role? “Who am I now?”
I have spoken with many carers in this situation. Often, they are still their loved one’s “go to” person. Their safety net in a world that doesn’t make sense. This is when the checking behaviours occur; when the person with dementia follows you about the house, just checking you’re still there.
From my perspective, setting up support sessions for carers, I know I need to spend time talking about the loss of the relationship for the carer and what that means to them. What does it mean to you?
Take care, all x x