Living with dementia

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Impact on couples

When one of a couple is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, it can be hard for the partner to know what to do, how to act. It’s important to remember that couples have a long history and strong emotional bonds, and this plays a role in how they act and react to a partner who now has dementia. Here are some ideas for couples dealing with a partner being newly diagnosed:

You have dementia or your spouse has dementia. Although it is a part of your life, it is not who you are. Allowing it to take over will not help you cope with it. People with chronic diseases are often told to stay positive. To be realistic, this is not always possible. Make sure you have someone to talk to. Communication will help you get through this. Life can be frustrating, and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can create aggravation, sadness and, sometimes, anger. You need to keep in mind what is important to you and what you do have control over.

So how do you let go of things outside your control? Find the things that bring you joy or a sense of happiness and seek them out.

While it may seem tough sometimes, make time for the activities you and your spouse can still enjoy. A new diagnosis can feel like an unwelcome visitor. Find the activity where this “visitor” is left waiting at the threshold and not invited in.

For example, continue travelling if this was something you loved to do and you can still do it. Enjoy seeing new things or revisiting old places. Unlike being at home, being out doing new activities takes you out of the setting where the disease is. Something as small as “let’s go for a walk” can lead you into a space in which you and your spouse can just enjoy the outdoors—and one another. It can also become a way to deal with the frustration, by leaving it behind for a few moments and coming back to it with a new perspective.

Remember to plan ahead, too. While enjoying life, make certain to plan for your future: look ahead for medical and financial concerns beforehand. Set up meetings now with an attorney, financial planner or family members so that the wishes both of you have are known and in writing.

Last Updated: 10/24/14
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