Oct 03, 2023

The behavioural association with family and friends

The truth is nobody will probably ever really know what the person living with dementia sees or feels. [Source: Shutterstock]

Over the years in residential care, I have noticed the influence family members and friends have on the well-being of residents, especially in the early to middle stages of dementia.

People who experience daily behaviours such as wandering, unsettled and often agitated could be associated with loneliness, depression and anxiety coupled with the symptoms connected to their dementia diagnosis.

Missing loved ones and their familiar home environment increases the exasperation of deeply felt emotions and identity.

Constantly searching for recognisable surroundings adds to the confusion and frustration, which leads to cognitive behavioural changes. Living with people you have never met before, sharing meals, and living quarters with other residents’ behaviours can change the emotional state of a once-settled and calmest of people.

I recently overheard snippets of a telephone conversation with one of our middle-stage dementia residents, who would rarely string any articulate sentences together; talking to her son on the telephone was the reverse.

She spoke coherently about special deals a particular airline would offer on a Friday for cheaper flights to Darwin and was engaged in the conversation. To any outsider, they would not have recognised that the person was living with dementia. The exchange of views, ideas and options was being offered freely by the resident, who was eager to see her son and was partaking in a comprehendible two-way tête-à-tête.

When the call ended, the resident looked thoughtful and appeared to be processing what she had heard and experienced.

I was curious to know what was going through her mind at the time of the telephone call when she was lucid and in control of her choices.

We can see that this is no isolated case when family or friends visit, especially with young children or babies, and engagement becomes more apparent. Could it be the association with family connections or the comfort and familiarity they bring? Relatives are often not recognised but mistaken due to their resemblance to siblings or family members who have since passed away. For the person with dementia, it’s their reality and exists in their minds.

Only through their eyes can we empathise and be aware that their reality is different from ours, which should be respected and acknowledged, never dismissed and always honoured.

Families experience anger, resentment and frustration at how their loved one is changing by not recognising them or even connecting them with another family member.

The journey is not only challenging for the person diagnosed with dementia but also for those who love them; they are still here with us. Although they may be in another state of mind than ours, they still need comfort, understanding and our love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


10 Medical Conditions That Can Be Painful For People With Dementia, That You May Not Have Thought Of

Pain is a symptom of a variety of different conditions and injuries – this also includes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia may experience physical pain for the same reasons as everyone else. However, because of their brain function and declining abilities, they may be less able to communicate to people that they are... Read More

Could Your Blood Type Influence Susceptibility to Alzheimer’s?

A new research study from the University of Sheffield suggests that our blood type may have more of an influence on protecting our brain from disease than previously thought. A promising development that may have the potential to unveil another piece of the puzzle supporting Alzheimer’s research. The University of Sheffield journal Brain Research Bulletin,... Read More

How to support a person with dementia as lockdowns ease

If your loved one has dementia, you might be wondering if their symptoms have worsened in lockdown, or if they remember who you are. Here’s what to look out for on your first visit after lockdowns end, and how to support your loved one after that. Read More