Dealing with emotions
The onset of the disease
Dealing with emotions
In order to be able to provide care for the person with dementia, it is necessary to first deal with your own emotions. After the initial shock of hearing the diagnosis, you may experience a number of different emotions. You may be inclined to ignore your own feelings and focus all your attention on the person with dementia, determined to do anything to make life better for them. On the other hand, you may feel relieved on hearing the diagnosis because you have spent so long worrying about the person’s behaviour and perhaps even fearing that they were going insane. On hearing the diagnosis and learning a little about what is involved, everything might suddenly seem to make more sense. Some people might feel guilty about their feelings and be unable accept them. In this case, they risk carrying their guilt through the care-giving process, often feeling bad without realising why. Another reaction is to feel angry at the disease. If the feeling of anger is not recognised, carers risk venting it on others. Many people at some stage feel anxious about whether they will be able to manage and about their own future. It is important to remember that the emotions you are experiencing are all perfectly natural and human. You should not worry about them, but simply accept them and then try to let them pass. Denying or holding on to such feelings will only make life unnecessarily difficult for yourself and perhaps others.
At the beginning of the disease the person with dementia might try to prevent other people from noticing that there is a problem. They might even partly succeed as a result of the mild nature of their particular problems and perhaps because family and friends might try to play down the importance of the problem. This may be due to a misguided belief that forgetfulness is a natural consequence of ageing. Nevertheless it can be extremely stressful for the person with dementia during this period. The person might be afraid of the future, of suffering and of death. Eventually when the symptoms become much more noticeable they may find it increasingly difficult to conceal the problem. At this point they may feel embarrassed at making mistakes and humiliated as a result of having difficulties with daily activities such as washing, dressing and going to the toilet. It is important to be attentive to these feelings and fears. Some people might appreciate being able to talk to someone about it. If they do not wish to confide in a family member a counsellor might be able to help.
Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009