Maintaining your relationship after a dementia diagnosis
Dementia can put a strain on your relationship. There are practical things you can do to maintain a positive relationship with your partner. This page also looks at what you can do if you didn't have a good relationship before your partner's diagnosis.
- How does dementia affect sex and intimacy?
- Sexual health and dementia
- Consenting to sex and intimacy after a dementia diagnosis
- How can dementia affect a person’s sexual behaviour?
- Dementia and challenging sexual behaviour
- You are here: Maintaining your relationship after a dementia diagnosis
- Sex and intimacy in care homes
- What to do if you suspect sexual abuse
- Dementia, sex and intimacy - other resources
Sex, intimacy and dementia
Dementia can put a strain on your relationship. However, there are things you can do to maintain a positive relationship with your partner.
Spending time apart, socialising with other people, or keeping up with your own hobbies can boost self-esteem for both of you. It can also and give you both something to talk about with each other.
Doing things together as a couple, as a family or with friends, can also help you to focus on the positive parts of your relationship.
Should I be a partner, carer, both or neither?
Sometimes relationships change between people with dementia and their partners. Some people will choose to continue caring for a person with dementia, even if their intimate or loving relationship has ended. Others decide it would be better to find alternative care arrangements for their partner.
Everybody is different, and it can be hard to come to a decision about what is best for you and your partner. This can be especially hard if you each have different views. It’s important that both of you have support and an opportunity to talk about what you are feeling. Couple’s counselling can be helpful for this. You can contact Relate, a voluntary group that offers confidential relationship counselling and advice.
Alternatively, your GP surgery may offer a counselling service, or you can call Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456 for information and advice.
How dementia can affect sleeping arrangements
Depending on how your partner’s dementia affects your relationship, you may decide to move to single beds or separate rooms.
This can feel sad or be distressing and challenging for you both if you have always slept in the same bed, and your partner may find it disorientating. It can help, if either of you feels lonely in this situation, to take an item of the other’s clothing or other personal item to hold in bed. It may be helpful to discuss how to manage with your community nurse, support worker or GP.
Practical issues around sleeping in separate beds, such as knowing when your partner gets up in the night, may be helped by technology such as pressure sensors that turn on lights. For more information see Using technology to help with everyday life.
If your relationship was difficult before dementia
Not all relationships are easy. Your relationship with your partner may have been difficult before they developed dementia. You may have negative feelings from the past which affect how you feel now. Your relationship may even have been abusive at times.
If you’ve had a difficult relationship with the person in the past and want to improve it now, try to get help to develop a healthy and safe relationship with them. If your relationship has been abusive or has become abusive, or you don’t feel safe, it’s important to tell someone you trust as soon as possible.
Should I be a carer for my partner if our relationship is difficult?
If you have caring responsibilities for the person, it should be your decision whether to continue and you should not feel that it’s something you have to do, especially if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Talk about these issues with someone, for example your GP, social services or a counsellor. See 'Useful resources' for details.