How to Talk to your Spouse about their Dementia Diagnosis

Empathy is the watch word when preparing to talk with a spouse about their dementia diagnosis. Dealing with a dementia diagnosis can often be incredibly challenging and difficult to process. This is especially true for the individual who has received the diagnosis. Therefore, you will want to ensure that you are empathetic and try to understand what they are going through. This will be a difficult condition to navigate. Arming yourself with the proper knowledge will help you to assist your spouse more effectively and will help you to overcome obstacles more easily.

Create a Support System

Before you decide to tackle this conversation, you should talk with someone else. Attempting to deal with this issue alone can be completely crushing.  The diagnosis alone is highly charged and talking with your spouse about it can bring up the full range of human emotions. Find a person who you can talk with. Someone who is emotionally invested in you, not your spouse. This will help you to be able to seek solace and clarity in conversation with this person.

You may also consider professional counseling or a support group, in addition to the friends and family who will be supporting you during this time. No matter how you’re your friends and family love you, they’re likely not professional mental health care providers. As the primary caregiver, you’re likely to take on the majority of the emotional heavy lifting for your spouse – and you’ll need proper support in order to bear that weight.

Plan, Plan and Keep Planning

Planning ahead can be a very helpful tool during the process of dealing with the condition. Before you have this conversation, you should consider a few things, most importantly what you will say and how you might approach your spouse’s denial of the diagnosis. Depending on the stage of their dementia, you might not be able to have a fully coherent conversation about the diagnosis. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but that you should plan on how to approach the conversation if it goes sideways.

Be sure to speak with your spouse’s physician. They might have specific tips on how to approach this conversation, taking into account their current stage of dementia.

After you’ve decided what you will say and how, consider who you want with you during this conversation. As previously noted, you might want to have a support system with you. You might find it difficult to manage your own emotions during this conversation, so having a friend or family member with you may help.

Communicate Openly And Honestly About Symptoms

You should explain the symptoms thoroughly to your spouse. This will likely require you to conduct the proper research and speak with your doctor in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the disease. Explaining the potential effects will allow the person to come to terms with the disease and plan ahead for the future. Typical symptoms include difficulty with problem-solving and completing tasks, losing things, changes in personality, difficulty with communication, etc. Understanding these potential symptoms can be upsetting. However, letting them know that you are there for them may make the condition easier to accept.

Discuss Options And Opportunities

The individual suffering from dementia should be aware of all of their options. This will allow them to make important decisions if they are still cognizant enough to do so. Weighing all the options will allow everyone involved to make more well-informed decisions. Also, they should be made aware of the different opportunities available to them, such as therapy, memory care, and various programs and activities that may boost their morale and promote healthy living.

Encourage the Sharing of Emotions and Validate Feelings

Undoubtedly, this will be an emotionally draining process for the diagnosed individual. Therefore, you should encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. This will allow you to better assist them and get a deeper understanding of their emotional state. You should strive to encourage them and help them to maintain the most positive mindset possible. Validating their feelings will show them that they are not alone and you understand. It will also show them that their feelings are important.

Be Willing to Repeat Yourself as Needed

It goes without saying (but we’re going to say it), people diagnosed with dementia will often forget things you have told them or things that they once knew. Therefore, they may ask you a lot of questions or require you to frequently repeat yourself. This can be very frustrating at times. However, it is important to remember that it is out of their control. Therefore, you should strive to maintain a positive outlook and work with them to the best of your ability. This may mean you will need to repeat this conversation, potentially often. But you will likely get used to doing this, and with time, it should become less of an issue.

Overall, this is a very challenging condition to have. It leaves the diagnosed person uncertain about their future and they may feel that they are losing control over their lives. The best thing you can do for them is to be patient, understanding, and empathetic. They will need someone to be there for them and help them. If you are caring for someone with this condition, you should also remember that you don’t have to do it alone either. Building a strong support system for both the person you are caring for and yourself will help to make things easier in the long run. Everyone needs people they can trust and rely on, which is especially important when dealing with a loved one diagnosed with dementia.