Dementia and relationships

Dementia can affect all aspects of a person's life, including relationships with family and friends.

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, you'll probably find that your relationships with others will change over time.

If a member of your family or a friend has been diagnosed with dementia, or you're caring for someone with dementia, your relationship with that person will change.

It's important to remember that everyone experiences dementia differently. But with the right help and support, relationships can still be positive and caring.

Find out more about living well with dementia

Telling people about your dementia diagnosis

Communication is an important part of any relationship. When you're ready, tell others about your diagnosis.

It's also good to tell them what you may have trouble with, such as following a conversation or remembering what was said.

You may find that some people treat you differently than they did before.

This may be because they don't understand what dementia is or are afraid of the effect on your relationship.

Try to explain what your diagnosis means and the ways in which family and friends can help and support you.

The health or social care professional who helped with your care plan, your GP or a dementia support worker at your local Alzheimer's Society can help with this if you'd like them to.

Let your friends and family know that you're still you, even though you have dementia.

Tell them you're still able to enjoy the activities you did before diagnosis, though some may take longer than they used to.

Read more about activities for dementia.

How your relationships may change

As the symptoms of dementia worsen over time, it's likely that you'll need extra help and support.

If you have been used to managing your own or the family's financial and social affairs, this can be hard to accept.

It can also be difficult for the person who now has to help you, as the balance of your relationship with them will change.

Other ways your relationships may change include:

  • you may become more irritable and less patient – those close to you may find this hard to cope with
  • you may start to forget people's names – this can be frustrating for both you and others
  • your partner or adult child may become your carer – this can be hard for you both to accept, as you once were able to care for them
  • sex and intimacy – you may become more or less interested in sex (Alzheimer's Society has a useful factsheet on sex and intimate relationships)

It's important to talk about your feelings and frustrations. It's also important to keep in contact with family and friends.

And try to make new friendships through local activities and support groups.

Find out more from Alzheimer's Society on how your relationships may change.

Communication and dementia

Communicating with others is a vital part of any relationship. Over time, someone with dementia will find it more difficult to communicate.

They may:

  • repeat themselves
  • struggle to find the right word
  • find it hard to follow what others are saying

This can lead to frustration for the person, but also for those family and friends around them.

But there are ways to help.

How to communicate if you have dementia

Tell those close to you what you find hard and how they can help you.

For example, you may find it helpful if people calmly remind you:

  • what you were talking about
  • what someone's name is

Other things that can help include:

  • making eye contact with the person you're speaking with
  • turning off distractions like radio or TV
  • asking people to talk more slowly and repeat what they have said if you don't understand it
  • asking people not to remind you that you repeat things

How to communicate with someone with dementia

If you have noticed that the person with dementia is withdrawing into themselves and starting fewer conversations, it can help to:

  • speak clearly and slowly, using short sentences
  • give them time to respond
  • give them simple choices – avoid creating complicated choices or options
  • try not to patronise them or ridicule what they say
  • use other ways to communicate, such as rephrasing questions because they can't answer in the way they used to

Read more about communicating with someone with dementia.

Find out about caring for someone with dementia

Page last reviewed: 20/09/2018
Next review due: 20/09/2021