Happy New Year! I’ll say the same to Mum when I see for the first time since 2015 became 2016 today. Since my last visit, the Alzheimer’s Society has published some important research about the value of visiting loved ones living with dementia. Their findings suggest that 64% of people living with dementia feel isolated from family and friends after a diagnosis. Almost half of those family and friends feel there’s little or no point in visiting:
New research by Alzheimer’s Society shows that 42% of people mistakenly think that once a person with dementia stops recognising loved ones, they don’t benefit a lot from spending time with them. Alzheimer’s Society, January 1st 2016.
Shocking statistics? Perhaps, but I recognise the message. And, no, I’m not about to stop visiting Mum. Just because she no longer seems to recognise me when I walk through the door does not mean that my visits mean nothing to her. On the contrary, a combination of hand-holding, singing slightly off-key and wearing the occasional silly hat seems to make that precious connection.
But it hurts. Seeing Mum look right through me as I walk into the room is a lonely, isolating experience. What am I doing there? Dementia isn’t just an isolating experience for the person living with the disease, but for carers and, sometimes, loved ones too.
For some relatives and friends, the experience of spending time with a loved one living with dementia is too painful. So while some “mistakenly” believe that there’s no benefit to visiting, others just can’t bear to see someone they love living in the developed stages of the disease.
It’s easy to judge those who don’t visit. To reduce them to statistics in a press release. But, with dementia, nothing is straightforward.