Tuesday, 03 October 2017 00:00

Understanding the emotions associated with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia

Once a person is diagnosed with any kind of chronic illness, a range of emotions for both the person and their family will present themselves over time. When the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s or dementia, emotional support from family and friends will be much needed – not only in the beginning stages of these diseases, but throughout them.

Emotions may be triggered by thoughts on how the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia will impact a person’s life and the lives of those closest to them, as well as the anticipation of challenges that will be faced in the future. In order to supply the best form of care as a care giver or loved one, it’s important to recognise the emotions you may feel and build yourself a support system in order to cope with these emotions. As a care giver you may experience the following emotions:


The diagnosis may seem completely unbelievable to you and because of that, may be hard to accept. Short-term denial is understandable and can, in essence, help you to adjust to the reality of the diagnosis. Long-term denial however, can have adverse effects, and may delay making important decisions about the future of the person with the disease. Fully coming to terms with the diagnosis is one of the best ways to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.


This emotion may arise when facing the inevitable progression of the disease and the challenges you will have to face in the future. Focusing on your fear of the future will hamper your ability to help in the present. Try not to think too far ahead, taking one day at a time.


This is a natural part of dealing with the stress of the unknown – the uncertainty of what to expect with Alzheimer’s or dementia is a daily reality. Try and remain as patient and supportive as possible, even if you are unsure on how exactly to help.

Anger and frustration

This is a highly common feeling – a common response to a complete loss of control over a loved one’s future. You may also feel resentment as to how your role as a care giver will, in turn, affect your own life.

Grief and depression

You may feel consumed by a sense of loss over the deterioration of your relationship with those suffering from either of these diseases. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression. It’s important to talk to others about how you feel and create your own support system to help you through the diagnosis and care.

The person you are caring for, is of course, the one to be most considered, as they will go through a similar range of emotions, most especially feelings of denial, fear and frustration. If you are able to form a relationship where you can both openly talk about how you are feeling from the beginning of the diagnosis, you are one step closer to creating mutual respect and a better quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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