Many family carers feel as if they’re constantly being pulled in different directions. They want to do their best for the person they love, but they have other responsibilities too. The daily struggle to keep everyone happy becomes more and more difficult as the dementia journey progresses and even more is required of them.
Sound familiar? You aren’t alone.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can put a lot of pressure on all your other relationships. Many family carers find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time and energy everything seems to take. Eventually, other people (including partners, children, siblings and friends) can all start to feel overlooked – rejected even –which can lead to complaints such as;
Why do you have to spend so much time with her?
This sort of comment often comes from a partner who’s struggling to cope with the changes your caring duties are having on your lives together. They know that you’re doing an important job and probably admire you for doing it, but they don’t understand why the person you’re caring for always has to take priority. They may also be genuinely concerned that you’re doing too much and worry about the affect this could have on your own health.
Ask yourself: Could there be some truth in this? Are you being a little over protective, or shouldering too many responsibilities? Could the job of caring be shared out more fairly? Or does your partner simply not understand what’s involved…?
Tip: An honest, calm conversation is probably required. Don’t go in with all guns blazing or with a defensive comment. Take time to really listen to what he/she has to say without interrupting. Try to put yourself in their shoes – and then ask them to do the same for you. Perhaps you can find a compromise which suits you both without neglecting the person you’re caring for?
If your partner has never been very close to the person who has dementia, the situation can become even more fraught. Don’t underestimate how difficult this dynamic could become; relationships can and do break up under so much pressure. If you’re constantly rowing, it might be time to consider professional help.
We hardly see you anymore
Your friends complain that you don’t keep in touch or meet up with them. They’re getting tired of you always turning them down. They know you’ve got a lot on, but surely you can still spare a bit of time for fun? Your social life seems to be none existent and they’re worried you don’t have much fun anymore.
Ask yourself: Are they right? Have you forgotten that life used to be fun? Maybe you’ve been too busy to even notice or to care very much. Depression amongst family carers is very common and cutting yourself off from friends will only exacerbate feelings of isolation.
Tip: Reach out and explain how you’ve been feeling. Real friends will respect you for being honest and will stick by you.
You’ve changed. You just aren’t the same person you used to be
This is usually said in an aggrieved tone by someone who’s feeling frustrated by the whole situation. They don’t only resent seeing less of you, they’ve noticed that you seem quicker to criticise them and generally less interested in what they’re doing.
Ask yourself: Could this be fair comment? Caring for a loved one with dementia can be all-consuming, it can also be life-changing, making you question what’s really important – and what isn’t. Many carers find their priorities change and they become less tolerant of people whose problems seem trivial or of friends who take more than they give.
Tip: If this sounds like you, you may have to accept that you could lose a few friends who don’t like the way you’ve changed. However, you may also gain a few others who admire and respect what you’re doing. Not convinced? Start by joining The Unforgettable Dementia Support Group.