Welcome to the second of my seven ‘mini’ blogs for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2014.
Concerns that a person is developing dementia aren’t just restricted to that individual – they also affect those closest to them, bringing complex relationships into play. Over this Awareness Week I want to look at some of the emotions and reactions that underpin the difficult conversations thousands of people are having, or thinking of having, as they open up about dementia.
Day 2 – ‘Role reversal’
As regular readers of this blog will know, it is the relationship between parent and child that underpinned my personal experiences of dementia. As my father’s vascular dementia gradually advanced, I lost crucial parental stability in some of the most important years of my life – my teens and twenties. Equally, my father also lost out though being unable to enjoy those years with me in full cognitive health.
The roles of parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren are very clearly defined in most people’s understanding of family makeup. Yet dementia has the ability to turn those relationships on their head. It rarely happens overnight, giving you time to adjust in some respects, but I don’t think anything can really prepare a child for having to take on a role that is likened by many to becoming a parent to their parent.
Concerns that your parent or grandparent are developing dementia can be devastating both emotionally and practically. Equally, from the point of view of your parent or grandparent they may be feeling very fearful, worried that they are letting you down, or concerned by a perception they have of becoming a burden to you.
Opening up to a person you know about your concerns that they may be developing dementia is a conversation most people dread and many seek to postpone for as long as possible. For help and advice on how to broach the topic of dementia, read my blog post ‘Having THAT conversation’.