Living with dementia

How relationships change

Alzheimer's disease does not change a person’s need for love and affection, but it changes many aspects of a relationship. You may lose the companionship of someone who has been close and important to you. You’ll need to find different ways to express your feelings.

Alzheimer's disease can also affect the sexual relationship of partners. It can change a person's interest in sex, either increasing or decreasing it. This may create a problem. For example, the person may put demands on you for more sex than is wanted.

A person with dementia may be overly affectionate at the wrong time or place. If this happens, explain the disease and its effects to the people involved to help them understand.

You may also find your role in your relationship has changed. Perhaps the person always looked after the family’s finances and this task has now fallen to you. Making decisions about financial and legal matters may be overwhelming. You may need to ask family members, friends or professionals to help you.

You may also find that your relationships with friends and family have changed. Perhaps they hesitate to spend time with you because they’re not sure what to say or may worry about the person’s behaviour. You may need to be the one to contact friends and family members. Suggest the best way to communicate with your family member with dementia, such as what to expect or activities they may still enjoy together. This may help you keep these sources of support close to you and the person you care for, at a time when you most need them.

Providing care for someone close to you can create new sources of stress in the rest of the family. Other family members may not be able to accept the person’s illness; you may resent the lack of help from other family members who don’t feel able, for whatever reason, to help out. You may also disagree on decisions about finances and care. It’s most helpful if these concerns can be acknowledged and addressed. You can do this through holding a family meeting, accepting that you will not all agree, sharing responsibility for care (even if it’s not an equal share), and continuing to communicate so that family members don’t feel left out.

The Alzheimer Society can help; don’t try to do this alone!


Last Updated: 12/16/11