“Think about 10 years ago. Would she have ever wanted to hurt you or make you feel the way you feel now?”

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, it can often cause more upset to partners and family members than for the person living with the disease. It can affect relationships in various ways.

A person living with dementia has many existing relationships: that with a spouse or a long-term partner, those with children and grandchildren and also old friends.

All of these require adjustment in order to maintain the relationship. Naturally, the responsibility rests more on the shoulders of closer family members than on friends you might only see occasionally.

In this post we explore some of the difficult situations that follow a dementia diagnosis.

My partner has found a new girlfriend/boyfriend

The effects of dementia on a romantic relationship can be complex.

Some aspects of the disease can increase one’s sexual appetite, which may lead to pressure on the partner.

The partner might not feel as comfortable in a physical relationship anymore because the roles have shifted to those of parent-child.

In some cases, the patient may feel depressed which can cause a loss in libido unless it is treated.

What people don’t talk about so much is that people in care homes may form new romantic relationships with other residents.

As expected, this can be distressing for loved ones, who equate that to a failure in their own relationship and see it as a betrayal, even though the person with the disease doesn’t possess the insight to judge their own actions in this light.

The truth

As hurtful as this is, all you can do at this point is make sure that your loved one is safe and happy. It’s not a personal attack on your history together. Don’t view it as a marital breakdown in the normal sense, as you still share a journey of love, companionship and family life. They have found a source of comfort and you have done everything you can to help them. You can still be there for them, but you can also move on with other aspects of your own life.

My partner is hurting me on purpose

When plunged into the role of carer, it’s natural you will feel some level of resentment towards your partner. This is not because you don’t love them but because the new dimension to the relationship can bring with it difficulties you are not used to dealing with such as anti-social behaviours.

Some partners believe that their loved one is adopting these behaviours out of spite. However, don’t mistake these actions for deliberate defiance.

You cannot allow yourself to take your loved one’s conduct personally. With dementia comes a loss of insight and a childlike mentality that they cannot control.

The truth

If the person you love does something upsetting or not very nice, ask yourself: “Would they have wanted to hurt me or make me feel this way before the disease?”

Everything you experience is simply symptoms of a nasty disease, not the characteristics of the person and absolutely no indication of how they ever felt towards you.

Other relationship difficulties

Romantic relationships are not only the relationships that suffer after a dementia diagnosis. Often, caring responsibilities can encroach on other pre-existing arrangements. For example, if nana and grandad always looked after the grandkids, and now nana has to look after grandad, the new situation can leave the grown up children feeling under-supported in their everyday lives. Perhaps they now have to pay a nursery, which adds financial pressure to the family unit.

In other cases, your children may see you taking out your frustrations on your loved one because it’s a difficult adjustment; you’re tired and not getting time to be yourself. This adds tension all round and can make family life less of a safe haven than it used to be for everyone involved.

Each relationship needs a different kind of support and understanding.

Me2U Centre is not just there to look after the person with the disease. It is a branch of support for all those affected, including partners, parents and children.  Me2U Centre can help you find that free time to be yourself again, or to take your grandchildren out for the day. We also offer help and advice to assist you in navigating this disease and all the changes that come with it. To find out more give me a call: 07888 649822