Updated: Jan 5, 2019
I've learned that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about dementia, and I’d like to take some time over the next several weeks to address a few of the big ones. I’ve heard all of these statements at one time or another, so I feel drawn to share my perspective. Stay tuned for my take on some of the most common myths out there.
I think this one comes up whenever someone’s diagnosed with a degenerative illness, and it can be especially difficult when that loved one begins to exhibit changes in mood or behavior because of it. As a family member, you will unfortunately experience moments when it is extremely difficult to watch the confusion/anger/fear take hold of your loved one. Your loved one may go through phases of being forgetful and repetitive. She may become angry and agitated more easily than she used to. He may not have his sense of humor anymore. Regardless of the change, challenge yourself to be there for them even when they aren’t who they used to be.
We spent almost ten years getting to know different versions of my mom because of dementia. And as much as I would have loved for her memory, personality, and cognition to remain untouched, we never would have seen so many sides of her were it not for the disease. Your loved one will change, that’s a given. But we all change through different seasons of our lives, and we owe it to our loved ones to be there even when those changes are difficult for us to handle.
Don’t let your loved one go this alone, but remember that you don’t have to be alone in this either. When you find it particularly difficult to process some of the more challenging aspects of the disease, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. This can help prevent burnout, while also maintaining some elements of the relationship you had prior to the diagnosis. Finally, remind yourself that it’s okay to hold onto past memories while still allowing yourself to be with your loved one in the present. Give yourself permission to allow both realities into your life, without letting the bad overtake the good.