Understanding emotions

Tuesday, 09 August, 2016

thumb image

Providing support to a person living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia is an ongoing and sometimes emotional process. As care partner, you may be feeling overwhelmed by emotions that range from fear to hope. Emotions may be triggered by thoughts about how this diagnosis will impact your life, but also the anticipation of future challenges. Learning to recognize your emotions may help you move forward and help the person with dementia live the best life possible.

Emotions we may experience as a care partner

  • Denial.
    The diagnosis may seem unbelievable or difficult to accept. Short-term denial can be a healthy coping mechanism that provides time to adjust, but staying in denial too long can prevent you and the person with the disease from making important decisions about the future. It also can delay his or her ability to live a quality life. If you are experiencing denial about the diagnosis, your ability to help the person with dementia will be hampered until you can come to terms with the diagnosis yourself.
  • Fear.
    Fears about the progression of the disease and the challenges in providing future care can be overwhelming and can prevent you from focusing on the present.
  • Stress/Anxiety.
    Uncertainty about what to expect as the disease progresses and how to support the person with the diagnosis can lead to increased stress.
  • Anger/Frustration.
    Anger towards the diagnosis is a common response to feeling a loss of control over the future. You may be feeling resentment about how your role as a care partner will impact your life.
  • Grief/Depression.
    Sadness or a sense of loss over your relationship may also lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Emotions the person with dementia may experience

Emotions such as fear and denial are common for both care partners and individuals living in the early stage of the disease. Being able to talk about these emotions together may help you both work past the difficult feelings and spend more time enjoying the present.

We help the person with dementia to work through feelings of denial and fear about the disease by:

  • Encouraging the person to share his or her feelings in a journal
  • Spending maximum time doing activities that are meaningful for both
  • Attending an Alzheimer's Association early-stage support group designed for both the person with dementia and caregiver
  • Talking to each other about expectations, questions and concerns