It’s inescapable — you and your loved one share a history together, and neither of you can maintain neutrality or detachment when dementia is diagnosed. One of your most difficult challenges now lies in accepting your loved one’s condition, and coming to terms with the fact that life will never be the same.
The emotional toll that dementia takes on a family is immense. In fact, statistics show that those caring for loved ones with dementia suffer from depression twice as often as caregivers of persons with other illnesses. Although it may be tempting to go on with life as if nothing has happened, the implications of denial are serious.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, denial may be present in a number of ways. If you’re hoping that your loved one is not ill, expecting your loved one to get better, or convincing yourself that s/he hasn’t changed, you’re most likely refusing to acknowledge the diagnosis of dementia. Being in denial can seriously compromise your health and well-being, and leaves your loved one in a state of confusion, and lacking necessary support. As hard as it may be, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that your loved one has dementia, which means accepting the ever changing, ever-evolving circumstances surrounding the disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following as signs of healthy acceptance: finding personal meaning in caring for a loved one who is terminally ill with dementia, noting how the grieving process affects your life, and appreciating the personal growth that comes from being strong in the wake of a difficult loss. They suggest facing your feelings as a means to achieving acceptance. Let yourself be sad, work through any anger and frustration you may be feeling, and don’t be afraid to embrace all emotions, whether positive or negative.
The journey that dementia takes a family on is taxing — and inevitably sparks stress and a mix of emotions along the way. It’s important to do what’s necessary for your health and well-being — with acceptance being the final, peaceful stop — in order to best care for and support your loved one.