Welcome to the fourth 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 4 – ‘A friend in need’
Blood may be thicker than water, but there is also an old saying that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. For some of us, our friends are our lifeline and the closest people to us.
Seeing changes in a good friend that makes you suspect that they are developing dementia poses a huge dilemma for many people, who may feel that they risk their treasured friendship if they mention their concerns to the person they are worried about. Even the most steadfast friendships can go through rocky stages, and for some people with dementia, fierce denial of the problems they are having can lead to them cutting off those who care about them.
Good friends are well versed in the challenges of this unique relationship, but whilst family members are routinely recognized as reliable advocates for a relative who has dementia, a friend’s status is often much more blurred, and can lead them into conflict with a family or professionals. If, however, there is one time when a person needs a little help from their friends (close friends more than just ‘Dementia Friends’) it would be when they are living with dementia. Many people with dementia report losing ‘friends’ as one of the most distressing aspects of a diagnosis of dementia – a good friend can literally make the difference between whether an individual lives well with dementia or not.
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’.