Dementia and your relationships - coping with other changes

Your dementia means that you will change in ways that affect your relationships. Here we list some of the ways this might happen. 

Changes which could affect your relationships

Communication

Your dementia means that you will also change in ways that affect your relationships. You may gradually find it more difficult to communicate. This can be very frustrating, as communication is so important in a relationship. When you're trying to communicate with someone, there are things you can both do to make it easier:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Listen carefully and give each other your full attention.
  • Get rid of things that make communicating more difficult - turn off the TV and radio if noise from these is causing problems.
  • Give yourself enough time for a conversation so you don't feel you have to rush.

Memory

If you are experiencing memory loss, you may start to forget the names of people you know. This can be uncomfortable and frustrating for them and for you. However, people close to you are still going to enjoy spending time with you even if you sometimes forget their names.

Ask those around you to help by not reminding you that you repeat things or have forgotten them. They can also introduce themselves or other people you know (for example, 'here's our neighbour, Bill').

For more tips on coping with memory loss see our booklet, The memory handbook.

The way you feel

You or those around you might notice changes in the way you feel or behave. For example, some people with dementia become less patient and more easily irritated than they used to be. This may be difficult for other people to understand and accept. It doesn't mean you feel differently about them - these changes are because of the dementia.

Keeping well

People with dementia and the people who care for them may feel low, stressed or anxious at times. These feelings can affect a relationship. If you or the person caring for you often have these problems, talk to someone. Help is available.

Sex and intimacy

As the brain of a person with dementia changes over time, some people find their interest in sex changes. Occasionally, they show much more interest in sex. Others feel less like being intimate. If you are in a physical relationship, you may notice changes in your partner's interest in sex. For example, if your partner is caring for you, they may be more tired and less interested in sex. If you and your partner don't feel the same way, there are ways you can try to stay close and connected.

Daily living

You will find that some activities including cooking, making appointments or doing family finances will become more difficult as dementia progresses. In the past, you may have done these things independently, but you may now take longer or need someone to help you. Both you, and the person helping you, might find this difficult at first.

Changing plans

If you have plans such as going on holiday or moving home, you don't need to change these just because you have dementia. However if there is a good reason why you should change plans or put them on hold, try to be honest about how that makes you feel. Talk to the people you'd made the plans with, or to another person you trust. Try to adapt to what is now possible and don't focus on what you can no longer do.

Any of these changes can mean you now have to talk about things you find difficult to discuss with other people, such as money, sex, or how you are feeling. However, you can ask trusted friends, family members or professionals - such as counsellors - for support to help you manage both practical activities and your emotional wellbeing.

National Dementia Helpline
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