Your relationships: How might dementia affect your relationships?

Living with dementia is likely to have an impact on the people around you and your relationships. These pages will help you understand how your relationships might change, and what you can do to prepare for and live with these changes

The people around you may already have helped with practical things, given you advice or just listened. The same people can help now that you have dementia. You may also find yourself getting to know new people and doing new things, perhaps at a group or club.

Over time, your relationships with the different people you know and meet will probably have already changed for a variety of reasons. Dementia is another reason these relationships may change. It can be difficult for you and the people around you to adjust, and may take some time.

Dementia may affect what you say and do but you are still you, with your own feelings and ways of doing things. Your experience of dementia will be different from everyone else’s.

How might dementia affect me and my relationships?

There are many ways that your relationships with different people will change.

Over time, you will come to depend more on the people in your life. This might be difficult for you or them to accept. However, in time you may also find it brings you closer together.

When someone becomes your carer

A partner, close family member or friend may over time take on the role of caring for or supporting you. This could raise the following issues:

  • If your partner takes on this role, it might be difficult to feel that you still are 'equals' in the relationship.
  • One of your children may take on this role. This might be difficult for you both to accept at first because in the past you cared for them, and now it's the other way round.
  • If you are a younger person with dementia, your parent might care for you. This can also be difficult for you both to accept, as you might have thought you would be caring for your parent as they grew older. You might not have imagined that they would care for you again once you became an adult.

Caring can often be challenging, and this is likely to affect how the person caring for you is feeling. They may sometimes be sad, stressed, frustrated, fed up, or just tired. But caring can also be a good experience - some people find it rewarding and satisfying.

Although one person may become your regular carer, other people you know may sometimes help you for short periods. Though you may find depending on others difficult at first, spending time with friends and family should be good for both of you. Try to accept any changes in your relationships with other people, and enjoy your time with them.

It can also help to explain to people how they can support you. Let them know the things that you can still do independently and the things that you need more help with.

Referring to a person as your 'carer'

Other people might refer to the person who helps you as your 'carer'. This includes health and care professionals such as doctors or social workers.

You might not think of the person in this way - instead you see them in terms of their relationship to you. For example, they are your wife, husband, partner, son, daughter or friend rather than your carer and they might feel the same way too.

In spite of this, it can be helpful to refer to this person as your carer when you are talking to health and social care professionals, or when looking for support. This helps to make it clear to people that they have an important role in supporting you.

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