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Tuesday, 22 May 2018 00:00

Dementia and friendships: will a diagnosis scare them away?

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia it could be considered one of the worst days of their life, and yours. They have just been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, for which there is no known cure. The future may seem scary, daunting, depressing and overwhelming.

To add to this, as their dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses, you will find that their friendships which were once strong, may begin to disintegrate. If there were any time to test the strength of a friendship, it’s through times of illness and hardship.

Sadly, some people struggle to come to terms with the idea of dementia. Friends may drift away not due to a lack of care and support, but more often than not, due to feelings of bewilderment, awkwardness and fear. Perhaps it’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they just don’t know how to deal with dementia.

Dementia and friendships: how they can flourish

Despite this, studies have shown that dementia can actually help certain friendships and relationships flourish. Friends who make the decision to be supportive, no matter the condition, are driven ever closer to those with dementia. It is a way of understanding their illness and helps them to delve deep into their struggles with them. Through this, many friends have described their own self-transformations in terms of growth, empathy and learning to deal with sadness and loss.

The consistent support of friendships is just as valuable to a healthy person as it is to someone suffering from dementia. Any good friendship helps us to feel supported and loved. Friends are a source of pleasure and a way of self-identification.

A good friend can also play an important role from the beginning of the disease, helping to point out changes in behaviour over time, progressive declines which may require attention or bad habits which may need controlling. Essentially, a good friend can help those with dementia to see themselves and their illness from an outsider’s point-of-view and perhaps gain a better understanding of it for themselves.

A new friendship can still develop through dementia

The bottom line is that yes, some friendships will fall apart, but the ones which are meant to last a lifetime will grow and flourish into a relationship which is stronger than it ever was before. Additionally, the opportunity to make new friendships after a dementia diagnosis is always there, not only for a loved one, but their care givers too.

Dementia communities welcome newcomers with open arms, to both those diagnosed with dementia and their care givers. Through these support networks there is ample opportunity to re-grow a friendship circle with the added bonus that everyone has a thorough understanding of what you’re going through. You are all connected through support of one another, which is the basis for any good friendship to flourish.

If old friendships cannot be saved, perhaps it’s time to move on. Yes, it can be painful and may seem daunting, but a world of support is at your fingertips through shared experiences, far and wide. Join a support network, such as https://www.facebook.com/groups/UnforgettableDementiaSupport/ where are you sure to receive the warm welcome you’re looking for!

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