Your relationships

6. People close to me

Although your relationships with different people will change, there are lots of ways to stay in touch with people who are important to you.

Sometimes people with dementia worry about talking to others, or think people won't want to spend time with them. Let people know you're still you! Most of the people you already have relationships with will hopefully still want to spend time with you. You may get to know new people too.

You may also be able to get help and support from people you know - including children. This may happen in different ways, depending on who the person is and the kind of relationship you have with them.

Couples

Some couples find that people in their wider families or friend groups spend less time with them when one of the couple develops dementia. This is often because they are uncomfortable talking about dementia or don't know what to say. If you are in a same-sex relationship and have already had family members or friends who struggle to accept this, it can be even more difficult for you if they then don't want to talk about dementia.

Some couples feel closer to one another when one person has dementia, because they are helping each other through the experience. Other couples find they feel less close than they used to. Although many relationships have ups and downs, you might find things become less settled now you have dementia. This can be difficult for both of you to adjust to. You might also find that your feelings or your partner's feelings change (see 'Sex and intimacy' under Coping with other changes).

These changes can be difficult, so it's important to tell your partner how you're feeling about them. It may help to get further support. (See When relationship problems develop).

For more information, see factsheet 514, Sex and intimate relationships.

Children and young people

It's important to tell any children and young people in your life that you have dementia as soon as you're able to. These might be your own children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews or children of close friends. When you talk to your own children, you might find it helpful to ask other adults who know you both to be part of any conversations. If your child is at school, it's often a good idea to let their school know too.

It's natural to want to protect children from difficult or upsetting situations, but it's important to be honest with them about your diagnosis for a number of reasons:

■ It's likely children have noticed things are different if you have shown signs of your dementia. They may feel relieved to know that changes in your behaviour were because of your dementia, and were not directed at them.

■ It can help children to learn important skills in dealing with difficult and distressing situations.

■ If you don't tell children and they later find out about your dementia, they will realise you didn't tell them the truth. This may be more upsetting to them.

Your child may experience different feelings, including sadness, fear or anger. It may be especially difficult for a young person having a parent with dementia. If they don't know many other people in the same situation, they may feel like very few people can relate to them.

It is important that children are supported with these feelings. They may wish to talk to a professional, including someone at their school, college or university.

For more information see Talking to children of different age groups.

Other family members

You may have other family members who you want to tell about your dementia. How they react will depend partly on the relationship you have with them, as well as their personalities. This is true for anyone you tell about your dementia.

You may have relatives who struggle to accept that you have dementia, or don't know what to say. This can be difficult. It's important to allow people to come to terms with your dementia in their own way and time.

Friends

Friendships are important throughout life, and continue to be important when you have dementia. For some people, friends are the main or most important people who support them. Whether or not this is true for you, it can be helpful to have people to talk to outside your family. You may find it easier to talk to friends - especially if you have difficult relationships with any family members.

You may have special memories or interests in common with friends. You may socialise, play a sport with them or work together - or have done so in the past. These friends can help you keep this connection with things that are important to you.

Friends may be willing to help in practical ways, like caring for you for short periods so your main carer can take a break, or even being your full-time carer. You may choose a close friend to become your attorney through a Lasting power of attorney (LPA).

For more information on LPAs see Alzheimer's Society booklet 1510, Planning ahead.

At the same time, some friends may find it difficult to accept that you have dementia. Some may struggle with how to continue being part of your life. There may be some friends who no longer stay in touch, and this might be hard to come to terms with.

Let your friends know you're around and able to enjoy the activities you did before you were diagnosed with dementia. You might have to adapt some of these activities, but friends can support you with this.

You may also have opportunities to make new friends. For instance, you might attend activities or local support groups where you can get to know other people who have dementia. You could also join our online discussion forum Talking Point, where people affected by dementia support each other.