What Family Members Go Through When Someone Suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease

Portrait of an elderly man, comforted by his son

Perhaps there is nothing more painful than seeing someone we love struggle with their mental abilities. Worldwide, there are about 24 million affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The U.S. comprises 5.5 million of that figure. Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause of dementia in the western world. Every year, families are left devastated and reeling from its effects.

While it is generally okay to leave a dementia patient in a dementia residential care home, it is not an easy decision for families. Before putting someone you love to the care of a nursing home or institution, you have to fight the feeling of inadequacy and guilt that threaten to derail your relationships and even how you see yourself.

Guilt

It is very common for people to feel guilty when someone they love is suffering from dementia. They feel guilty for how that person was treated in the past. They feel guilty for not taking care of the person personally. They feel guilty for feeling embarrassed when that person acts differently in public. They feel guilty for being exasperated and for not wanting to take care of the person.

When they make the ultimate decision of leaving the person with dementia in a nursing home or a recovery centre, all the more these feelings of guilt will multiply. Couldn’t they take care of that person? Should they leave their jobs and be a full-on caregiver?

Grief and Loss

woman crying and stressed

Physically, you haven’t lost this person with Alzheimer’s disease. But because they can barely remember you or the memories you spent together, it will feel like you’ve lost them anyway. People who need to take care of a person with dementia often feel that they’ve lost this person they’ve shared their lives with. If the onset of dementia happened to someone young, there might be grief and loss at the thought of never fulfilling the plans they made together.

People grieve in different ways and at different times. Sometimes, they will feel okay and ready to fight the day. But then, there will be times when the feeling will worsen, and they’ll grieve all over again.

Anger

It is normal for people who see their loved ones suffering from dementia to be angry. They are angry at themselves for failing to take care of the person. They are angry and frustrated at the person with dementia for their difficult behaviour. Anger, frustration, and exhaustion are all part of the journey one needs to take when faced with a difficult situation such as dementia in the family. You may even feel angry at the government and the lacking social services.

If you feel like lashing out or ranting, talk to someone about your feelings. You need help, too, and it’s okay to admit all these ill feelings. There are groups and communities built to gather together families of those who suffer from dementia. They can lend ears to your grievances, and you may even find some of their suggestions helpful.

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