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Dementia guide

Dementia and your relationships

As dementia progresses, your relationships are almost certain to change.

It is easy to feel isolated and alone if you or someone you care for has dementia. Keeping in contact with others is good for people with dementia because it can help keep them active and stimulated.

Some people find it difficult to talk about their own or a family member's dementia, or want to help but don't know how. If a friend or family member finds it hard to talk to you, don't lose touch.

Make the first move – explain that you still need to see them and tell them how they can help you. You may also find it helpful to join a local group of people with dementia and their families.

Read more about living well with dementia.

If you have dementia yourself, it's important to tell your family and friends so they understand what is happening. If you find this difficult, you could ask your doctor to discuss your symptoms with your family. This way, as your symptoms progress they may better understand why you may not always remember them.

Family, friends and carers of people with dementia

As a family member or friend, you may find the person with dementia becomes unable to perform certain tasks or the roles they once did, such as handling bills or general household tasks. So it's important to start making plans as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis.

We need to communicate to express our needs, likes and dislikes. If making our thoughts known becomes a problem as it does in dementia, it can be very frustrating. Frustration can lead to difficult-seeming behaviour. And if this behaviour helps a person with dementia get what they want, they may repeat it in future.

If you're looking after someone who has dementia, you may have feelings of grief or loss even though the person you're caring for is still alive. This could happen because dementia is a life-limiting condition (it stops you doing things you would normally do, without reasonable hope of a cure) or perhaps the personality of the person with dementia has been affected by their condition.

Although not everyone experiences this "anticipatory grief", people who do can feel the same emotions and sense of mourning as if the person had actually died.

Dementia does not necessarily stop you enjoying relationships, or even your sex life. Some couples find they can still be close, even if other abilities have deteriorated. But sometimes dementia can increase or reduce previous sexual feelings, and you or your partner may find this distressing.

Relationships, dementia and residential care

Going into residential care is a difficult decision for anyone, regardless of the age or level of disability of the person going into care. And although by going into care they enter a protected environment, this doesn't stop their ordinary human needs.

If a person with dementia goes to stay in a care home, they will need to maintain existing relationships, even at a distance. They may develop new relationships with people in their new home.

Wanting to continue having a loving relationship with a partner, whether physical or not, will not automatically stop when they get diagnosed with dementia, or even if they have to stay in a care home.

Physically intimate sexual relationships may not end when someone with dementia goes into a care home. However, care homes have a duty to protect vulnerable adults, such as those with dementia, and staff will have to balance this with partners' rights to a fulfilling emotional and sexual life. While it may be hard to talk about, it is something that may need to be discussed with the care home manager.

The Alzheimer's Society has detailed information about dementia and sexual relationships, including adapting to changes in sexual behaviour, capacity to consent to sexual relationships, and what to do in cases of suspected sexual abuse.

Page last reviewed: 08/07/2015

Next review due: 08/07/2017


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