In the second part of the series, we looked at what it is like for the informal caregiver to live with and care for a loved one with dementia. Finally, to round off the series of blogs about dementia, it is only fitting that we shed light on what it is like for the persons with dementia themselves.
Pre-Diagnosis Dementia Signals
Primarily, before the actual diagnosis, the person with dementia may start to notice some small changes in their memory, concentration or behaviour. These individuals may start to forget certain appointments, may start to confuse places and people and may start finding it difficult to maintain long conversations. Naturally, this places a lot of fear and stress on the person. Why is this happening? What is happening? I don’t recognise myself anymore – I used to be so sharp! These are all statements that persons with dementia may start to ask or say to themselves.
In the period after diagnosis they may feel sad or anxious, and at times may struggle with ancillary factors that may contribute to the worsening of the symptoms. Ancillary factors like being sad or anxious are normative reactions to their diagnosis, and that can be supported in therapy or support groups. What we have to understand is that persons with dementia are starting to experience a world and life that is so different from the ones around them.They may struggle with losing hope and a fear of the future, which then ultimately lower their self-esteem, increase dependence, and thus have a major effect on their behaviour and personality. Some persons with dementia struggle with acceptance (and thus denial), and so require a lot of understanding and patience.
Nevertheless, the above does not intend to imply that persons with dementia should be ignored or given up on.
Quite the contrary, persons with dementia need to continue to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Their ever-changing situation is not their fault, they cannot control what is happening, and that is possibly one of the most difficult aspects of dementia – the lack of control. As a result, one has to understand that just because there is a diagnosis, this does not mean that the person with dementia does not have a future. Their future should be one filled with compassion, understanding, and support.
Remember – every person will have a subjective and individual emotional reaction to any type of news, let alone dementia.
You may find persons with dementia who are ready to face the challenges of the disease head on, but you may also find individuals who are scared, and both are okay. Dementia may change individuals, but their need for dignity and respect will remain forever.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Mr Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with clients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Mr Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.