Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dementia and Feelings

Feelings. We all have them. Anxious. Sad. Worried. Happy. Hurt. Loneliness. 
Even with a diagnosis of dementia the person still has feelings. The thing is with a diagnosis of dementia these feelings are most often intensified. 
Take someone who is leery about the dark. That same person with dementia wouldn't be leery, they would be terrified. 
Or someone who's feelings are hurt, that same someones feelings can and are hurt when they have dementia. Only it is more intense. 
Everything is worse with this diagnosis. Because the patient no longer has the ability to deal with emotions or feelings. They have them, you can be sure but they have a hard time coping with feelings and showing their feelings to others.
To many times what the patient is doing, or saying is wrote off because "they have dementia". 
The one thing this disease does is intensifies everything. So when they tell you or show some sort of emotion or outward feelings, chances are whatever it is that is bothering them is much worse than you think.
I think we often say, "They have dementia and that is why they are feeling like they do". Which is true. But those feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear, or anxiety are very real to the person with dementia. 
If your loved one says something that is completely out of character for them, pay attention. They could very well be showing you their feelings the best way they know how.
Don't disgard something they say or are doing as "it's the disease." Of course it is the disease, but these people have feelings just like everyone else.
I can have my feelings hurt, just like anyone. I can say things that to me are very important, trying my best to tell you what I need you to know, but sometimes am not being heard because of my diagnosis. 
When a patient talks of hurting themselves, or not wanting to live anymore, these feelings are real. It's caused by depression, a very real symptom of dementia. 
Take what they are saying very seriously. Don't discount it if they are talking about hurting themselves, or they say they just don't want to live anymore.
There have been more cases than you would ever believe where the patient has hurt a family member, or worse and then perhaps did something to themselves. 
We have feelings. And they are real. More real than they were before our diagnosis. We sometimes have a difficult time explaining them. But it is your job as a caregiver to read between the lines.
What are they really saying? Is this difficult? Of course it is. I have said many times caregiving is not rocket science, it's much harder than that.
Listen to your loved one. They have feelings. One's feelings don't fade as the memory worsens. Be considerate, be compassionate. It's the right thing to do.
If you think there is something wrong, or if they are contemplating hurting themselves or someone around them, take this seriously. This is not a stage patients to through, wanting to do harm to themselves or others.
Simply because your loved one can no longer communicate with you, they still have feelings. Their feelings of anxiety, depression, and fear are only worse with the disease.