Honoring the Love: Remembering the Couple Behind the Memory Loss

There's no denying that dementia changes spousal relationships, but you can find ways to connect as a couple. Simple Celebrations Can Keep Love Alive Your celebrations don’t have to be grand. For occasions like Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthdays, a bouquet of flowers or a thoughtful gift can brighten your partner’s day and improve the mood and energy in your home. “Honor your special moments together by recreating traditions and celebrations with the goal of reminding your spouse they are loved,” says Cristal Baer, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida. “They can still enjoy the festive, happy spirit of the gesture, even if they no longer remember what it originally meant to you as a couple.” And if that’s the case, she adds, “Don't try to ‘make’ them remember, as this may cause embarrassment. Instead, find joy in the connection it sparks between you now.” Maintaining Social Connections as a Couple When a spouse with dementia experiences personality changes, loses confidence in their abilities or acts unpredictably, both partners may withdraw from their social circles. Caring for a partner may leave little time or energy to spend with friends, or friends may hesitate to spend time with the couple because they worry about not knowing how to act or what to say around the spouse with memory loss. But social engagement is important to emotional health – for both you and your spouse – and to your partnership. Assure your friends that you value their friendship and support. “Consider entertaining small groups of friends in your home, where your spouse is less prone to anxiety or challenging behaviors and guests feel comfortable,” says Baer. Prepare friends in advance by explaining how your loved one’s physical and cognitive abilities may have changed since they last visited, and provide them with suggestions for how to communicate with your spouse and what activities they enjoy. Intimacy The effects of your partner’s cognitive decline may mean you’ll no longer be able to have the same emotional or physical intimacy you once shared. Among the many reasons, depression and other dementia symptoms can reduce your spouse’s interest in intimacy, as can some medications. Their doctor may be able to help treat these symptoms and provide alternate medications. It's also common for caregivers to lose desire because of the demands of caregiving. Some find it helpful to hire in-home care providers or move into a supportive living community. The transition from intimate partner to caregiver and changes in their partner's personality can also cause spouses to lose interest in intimacy. Caring for the Caregiving Spouse Spouses often face overwhelming stress and challenges when their partner develops dementia. Many couples have been together for decades, and now they grieve for the person their spouse once was. Compounding this grief and other emotions are the full-time demands of being a nurse, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, and liaison regarding their spouse’s healthcare, legal and financial affairs. Handling these responsibilities while meeting your spouse’s physical, emotional and cognitive needs can be exhausting, threatening your own health and state of mind while draining the energy you need to connect with your loved one on a personal or physical level. Remember: the key to providing the best care and quality of life for your spouse is taking care of yourself. Have a friend or family member visit with your spouse while you take some well-deserved you time to rejuvenate your body and spirit and return home to your spouse happy and refreshed. For more information or ideas on how to connect with your spouse as dementia progresses, contact a member of YourLife™ of Tallahassee. We will be happy to share our expert advice with you. Give us a call today at 850-250-5671. Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the very best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention and resources into creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. We see each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can provide assistance with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our personal touch doesn’t stop at our care. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.