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How Dementia Affects Family: Navigating Changing Relationships

How dementia affects family dynamics will be different for everyone. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible condition that accounts for roughly 75% of all dementia cases

People living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia typically experience memory loss and a gradual decline in reasoning and brain function.

An Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming. 

And many family caregivers can feel isolated in their experience of struggling to manage family responsibilities while providing essential care— especially if they don’t have access to support groups or resources.

But with The Kensington Reston, support is never far away. Today, we’ll discuss how a loved one’s dementia can affect the whole family, and how you can get help.  

How dementia affects family caregivers

Caring for a person with dementia can impact everyday family life and result in emotional distress for primary caregivers and other family members.

Primary caregivers report poorer overall health compared to non-caregivers. 

Psychological distress levels are significantly higher in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease caregivers than in other types of caregiving. And, too often, family caregivers tend to find themselves in situations where they sacrifice their own leisure pursuits and other stress-relieving hobbies. 

In addition, family caregivers often find it necessary to reduce working hours—or stop working altogether—to be able to care for their loved one. This creates a financial burden on the caregiver and family.

Family carers feeling the pressures of overseeing dementia patients can often find the support services they need without sacrificing the high-level of loving care for their loved one. Such support can be found through assisted living communities, like The Kensington Reston. 

Our assisted living accommodations help residents enjoy prolonged independence and 24/7 care in fully-secure, dedicated memory care neighborhoods designed to help your loved one feel safe and help you feel peace of mind.

Dementia and family caregiver relationships

When someone receives Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s not uncommon for them to feel frustrated, depressed, or even worry about becoming a burden to other family members now tasked with their care. 

In addition to memory loss, those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can experience a number of physical health problems and behavioral symptoms that can impact their personal and caregiver relationship, including:

  • Sleeplessness or poor sleep patterns
  • Depression or emotional distress
  • Anxiety
  • Behavior changes
  • Slower wound healing
  • Mood swings 
  • Disorientation or confusion surrounding time and place
  • Mobility and communication challenges 
  • Reduced problem-solving and decision-making skills 

As symptoms intensify over time, individuals living with dementia can increasingly depend on others for things they used to do themselves. And adjusting to these new relationship dynamics can be challenging. 

For example, family members may hold a family meeting or make important decisions without asking for input from a loved one living with dementia. 

This can strain family relationships and lead to additional feelings of frustration or helplessness and can be especially challenging for someone who previously held a decision-making role in the family. 

Additionally, as communication difficulties increase for those living with dementia, they can be inclined to withdraw from the people they love.

Impact on couples

When a spouse is diagnosed with dementia, it can disrupt the comfort and ease of the relationship. Particularly in spouse caregivers.

Marriages and long-term partnerships develop lengthy histories and emotional bonds, which often come into play in everything from personal jokes to shared memories. 

Dementia changes how couples relate to one another

Changes to personal relationships can cause difficulty if both individuals desire differing physical needs. For example, while those living with dementia may withdraw from affection, others may become too affectionate. 

Impact of the disease on family caregivers

When a dementia diagnosis is received, many families initially step in as the designated caregiver. Unfortunately, this can be significantly disruptive to family life—especially if the diagnosis and subsequent care are unexpected. 

Many families struggle to care for a loved one for the years following diagnosis, which can range from 4 to 20 years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association estimate. 

Family members can suddenly be responsible for daily activities such as cooking, feeding and supervising a loved one with dementia. This shift can not only be highly stressful but also physically demanding.

Caregivers of dementia patients report higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety, and lower levels of subjective well-being than other caregivers. Stress can manifest itself physically with higher levels of stress hormones, compromised immune systems, antibodies, increased medication use, and even cognitive decline in caregivers. 

At The Kensington Reston, we offer outpatient rehabilitation services to caregivers as well. This service is a great way to get to know us if you’re considering moving your loved one to our community full time. 

Our licensed professionals offer comprehensive therapeutic and rehabilitation services to 

  • Help improve or restore mobility and strength, 
  • Adapt to changes brought on by dementia, and 
  • Learn new self-care skills
  • Offer support strategies and assistance for difficulties with chewing or swallowing. 

In addition, everything we do is anchored in senior life enrichment that not only encourages physical wellness but also fosters the social relationships that are vital to good health.

Helping families help their loved ones—and themselves

Primary caregivers and family members can benefit from educating themselves about living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Dementia resources and support groups often offer practical suggestions on caring for someone in the various stages of memory loss.

For example, encouraging someone with memory loss or dementia to ask for assistance can help family caregivers understand what their loved one needs and when. Working on communicating about needs, wants, and expectations can reduce stress while helping families find new, effective ways of working together. 

It’s important for family caregivers to implement self-care practices and activities. These aren’t just ‘nice-to-have,’ they’re essential for primary caregivers to protect their mental health while developing coping skills.

The Kensington Reston is proudly partnering with Insight Memory Care Center, a nonprofit adult day health and resource center, to host The Kensington Day Club. This 8-week, on-site engagement program is for adults with early stages of dementia and offers activities, recreation, peer support, and socialization for individuals showing early stages of dementia. 

At The Kensington, we understand the daily challenges of being a caregiver, which is why The Kensington Day Club is a great resource to support you and your loved one on this caregiver journey.

Support

How dementia will affect someone will depend on any number of variables. At The Kensington Reston, we work with you to determine the personal care and support levels your loved one may need.

There are six main Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that can impact an individual’s quality of life, how they move through their day, adhere to medication management regimes, etc. 

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) 

  • Feeding yourself 
  • Ability to bathe, groom, and brush your teeth
  • Getting dressed and undressed
  • Sitting, standing, and walking
  • The ability to control bladder and bowel functions
  • Ability to use the toilet

These ADLs help determine the type of care your loved one needs regarding in-home, assisted living, or other living arrangements. 

Residents and their families at The Kensington Reston work closely with their personal care manager. Together, they determine the level of support needed and how best to implement it here—in their community, regardless of how their needs progress or change. 

Our residents are family. 

Laughter, hugs, companionship, and unwavering resident and family support are regular parts of everyday life at The Kensington Reston. We ensure our residents feel loved and secure through heartfelt excellence in assisted living.

The Kensington Reston—Your partners in care for changes and the challenges of dementia

Family members often act as a dementia caregiver. While this can be sustainable when loved ones are more independent, it can quickly progress beyond a carer’s capacity.

At The Kensington Reston, we Promise to love and care for your family as our own. And we extend that promise to the supporting caregivers of our residents.

But don’t just take our word for it.

Call us today to schedule your guided tour of our community and learn more about our memory care team and how we can support you and your family.

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