A diagnosis of dementia can be scary for the person diagnosed and their loved ones. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the condition because of the drastic ways it may affect one’s life. Sometimes researching the expected progression of a dementia-related disease like Alzheimer’s can help reduce some anxiety.
Also, knowing what external support options there are can make future preparations easier. For example, knowing what kind of adult day centers or respite care options you have available. This is especially beneficial if there is a senior community in your area that provides memory care, which is specialized for people who are struggling with dementia and related illnesses.
What Is Dementia?
People often use dementia and Alzheimer’s disease interchangeably. And while they do have many overlapping symptoms, they are different. The biggest thing to remember is that Alzheimer’s is a disease where the brain slowly shrinks and damages brain cells. In turn, this causes many of the symptoms that are common with dementia.
On the other hand, dementia is not actually a disease. It’s an umbrella term used to describe several symptoms that affect a person’s memory, social skills, and ability to think and reason. Another common misconception is that memory loss equals dementia as a person ages. This symptom often comes with dementia, but it’s not an automatic diagnosis if someone is losing their memory. Other things can cause memory loss.
Dementia is caused by damage to or loss of brain cells. For example, when Alzheimer’s damages the brain, the result is dementia. However, this damage can come from other sources. Someone who suffers serious brain damage may develop dementia even at a younger age. So, in this way, it’s not actually an age-related illness (though many people who develop dementia are older).
How Does Dementia Impact Spouses?
In a marriage relationship, there is typically a shared burden between partners. Unfortunately, when one develops dementia, that shared workload is eventually placed on one person’s shoulders. Because as dementia develops, an aging adult will be able to do less and less by themselves.
Not only does this change the family dynamic, but it can lead to resentment and caregiver fatigue. The non-affected spouse may also feel isolated or neglected because they spend all their time caring for their spouse.
Tips for Coping
Dementia or Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to end a marriage or relationship. There are some great ways to deal with the fallout, and many resources are available nowadays.
One of the most critical things that the diagnosed person and their spouse can do is to accept the diagnosis. When accepted for what it is, a condition that will almost certainly get worse without a cure, planning for the future can commence.
This is definitely easier said than done. For example, a person developing dementia will sometimes be in a state of denial where they don’t think there is a problem. This attitude may lead to them not thinking about their or their spouse’s future and what it will look like.
As the condition gets worse, routine becomes increasingly important. How often does life hit us with curveballs? This isn’t a big deal for most people, and it’s easy enough to adapt. However, when someone’s memory begins failing, this can be incredibly frustrating. So, keeping life as predictable as possible helps someone adjust to a changing life.
Don’t Exclude Them From Decisions
Having important conversations gets a little bit more complicated. So, it can be tempting to try and exclude someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s from some decisions. However, it’s essential to include them in as much as possible for as long as possible. This goes a long way toward improving the affected person’s overall mental health
Build a Support Network
If you’re the spouse, don’t try and do everything yourself! Full-time care of a loved one with dementia is a demanding job. It may be easy at the start because you love the person. However, over time, the demands commonly result in burnout and resentment. There are many options, such as respite care or sharing the burden with other family members.
Care for Yourself
One of the most important things to coping with the massive life changes that dementia brings to the family dynamic is not forgetting to take care of yourself. This means don’t neglect your other friendships and relationships. Take a day or an afternoon to yourself to do something you enjoy.
How Foxtrail in Cresskill Can Help
There’s no escaping that there will be massive life changes when dementia or Alzheimer’s disease enters a family, but you and your spouse don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re in Cresskill and wondering about memory care options, give us a shout at Fox Trail Senior Living. Our staff is happy to answer all your questions and book you a tour to see the community.