Dementia’s Life Lessons: Relationships and Love Evolve
By Janet Jackson-McCulloch
As wonderful as Valentine’s Day can be, it can also serve as a painful reminder of happier times when you love someone with dementia.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that along with my decades of professional experience with this heartbreaking illness, I also understand it on a personal level. My mother-in-law had dementia for many years and I know firsthand the challenges of loving someone with this disease.
Suffice to say: it’s not easy. But it can be an incredibly rewarding and unforgettable journey. As we celebrate this month of love, here are five lessons my team and I have learned along the way about living and loving with dementia.
1. The More You Know, The Better Life Goes
Learn all you can about the stages of dementia. Having a good idea of what to expect can be hugely beneficial. Now is the time to simplify your lives and adopt regular routines to ease your loved one’s way into this new chapter.
2. Relationships Can Evolve, Beautifully
Try to remember that your loved one is still the same person inside, still capable of feeling joy, appreciating your touch, and having fun even when they’re no longer able to respond to your expressions of love. Let this list from the National Institute on Aging inspire you. If you can generously adapt as your loved one’s disease progresses, you can continue to build rich and meaningful memories together.
3. Music Works Wonders
Research shows that music memory remains alive and well for those with dementia. Singing or playing a favorite song for your loved one can spark an amazing emotional transformation. If you’ve never seen the documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, it’s well worth a look. One of my favorite memories is of a client who loved to sing “You Are My Sunshine” with her grown daughter every time they were together. Both faces glowed with love and meaningful connection.
4. It’s More Important Than Ever to Take Care of Yourself
Family caregivers often spend so much time and energy caring for their loved one, they neglect their own health and well-being. Depression, alcohol abuse, physical exhaustion, and health problems are all likely results. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance®, the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to accept is the advice to take care of yourself. Do it anyway—for both of you.
5. Dementia is Not the End of Love or Life
It’s true, once dementia takes hold, things will never be the same. But there are many ways to strengthen the loving ties that bind you. As part of our Smart Aging™ program, we offer tools and resources that bring relief and peace of mind to those caring for a loved one with dementia. I wish you well on your journey together.
About Janet Jackson-McCulloch
Janet Jackson-McCulloch, Founder and President of Elder Advisory Group, established her firm to help older adults and their families make crucial care management decisions with confidence. As an Aging Life Care® Professional, she and her team of experts make Smart Aging™ the new reality. Elder Advisory Group’s personalized tools and strategies, vital resources, and trustworthy advice and advocacy give clients better health, greater freedom, and real peace of mind.