A diagnosis of Dementia is difficult for everyone, but it can take an unusually large toll on the spouse. You want to stay true to the vows you made when you got married, but ‘that’s not an easy task. Caring for a spouse or partner with Dementia can range from a minor bump in the road when it’s in its early stages, to a monumental challenge as the disease progresses. Here is what to do when your spouse has dementia.
You must prepare yourself as much as possible for how the disease may affect your loved one so that you can begin to adjust your mindset early on. What may have been an equal partnership will likely turn into more of a parent-child role in the middle and later stages of the disease.
In some relationships, the person with Dementia accepts the guidance of their spouse and becomes a willing dependent on them for direction. In other cases, resentment and anger develop at continually being told what to do all the time.
Something to consider is visiting a memory care facility. They offer many dementia care services and are can be a valuable resource to gain insight about the types of changes you might be expected to face.
Things Will Change
Another thing to consider is the fact that emotional and physical intimacy is going to change. The caregiver spouse may become unsure of ‘what’s appropriate and beneficial for them both — challenges which involve an increase or decrease in sexual interaction or even attraction to one another.
How to Deal With a Spouse Who Has Dementia
Sometimes, the most challenging aspects of caring for a spouse with Dementia are personality changes and challenging behaviors that can come with the disease. Your spouse may suddenly be accusing you of things for no apparent reason and become aggressive, or they may become depressed and anxious, and it can be hard to figure out why.
Your spouse will probably be very unlike the person you fell in love with and have lived with up to this point, but here is how you can deal with that.
Tips for success
1. Sense of Humor
Research has shown that laughter can help the heart, mind, and body. Use it frequently. Laugh together at funny things that happen around you. Watch a comedy or funny movies or read a book or comic that you both enjoyed in the past. Use a familiar phrase or previously shared joke. Caregivers can also benefit from a bout of laughter with a good friend.
2. Remember that ‘it’s the Disease’
One of the most important strategies for coping with the challenges of caring for someone with Dementia is to continually remind yourself that those problematic things are the disease manifesting itself, not your spouse.
When they say something mean or spiteful, know that it is the disease talking and not speaking from their hearts. While hurtful words are challenging to hear, it is essential that you ‘don’t internalize them or let them build a wall between you.
3. Continue to Strive for a Healthy Relationship
While you will have to accept that things are changing, you should still be able to build moments into the day where you can nurture your marriage. Hold your ‘spouse’s hand, make eye contact from across the room, share a special dessert.
Do something with them that you have always enjoyed, whether reading your favorite book or just watching a sunset together. Spend time telling your spouse how special they are to you.
4. Don’t Go It Alone
You may be strong, smart, and self-sufficient, but you should not try and do it all alone. Look into the professional resources in your local community. Assisted living communities can help to take away a large portion of your usual daily responsibilities, leaving you with more quality time and energy to spend with your spouse.
There are likely support groups in your area, or even online that can offer you advice. There may be family members who can give you a break once in a while. If your friends are asking how they can help, let them help you. They are likely more than happy to help, even if it is just finding a way to bring you a special treat, a smile, or even a shoulder to cry on.
Knowing when to get help with caregiving is essential both for your health and for the health of your spouse.
Living with someone with Dementia can be a very challenging but rewarding time. Knowing what to expect and being intentional with how you respond will help. It’s also important to know and take advantage of all the support available for both of you through community agencies and online groups. Taking the time to ensure your own mental and physical well-being can only help you to continue to be able to love and cherish your spouse despite the many challenges of this disease.