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What It's Like to Have Dementia

Understanding dementia symptoms from the inside can make you a better caregiver – and bring you closer to your loved one.

Finding the Message in Dementia Symptoms

When it comes to understanding dementia symptoms, Kallmyer says that there are limits to what a caregiver can do. “Sometimes, the behavior of a person with dementia will have no meaning,” she says. “The disease is just destroying their brain cells, and their actions have no rhyme or reason.”

But other times, Kallmyer says, seemingly irrational dementia symptoms will cloak a message that you can decode. “We like to think of all behaviors as forms of communication from a person with dementia,” she tells WebMD. Taking the time to interpret and understand could not only get your loved one what he needs, but also bring you closer together. While the relationship you once had with your loved one will fade away, you may forge a new and different but still meaningful connection.

John and Mary Ann Becklenberg can’t know what the future holds for them, but for now they’re focusing on what they have.

 “I think that we’ve actually felt closer as a result of this disease,” says John Becklenberg, who is the primary caregiver for his wife. “I’ve had to slow down some and take more time with her.”

Mary Ann Becklenberg is grateful. “Caregivers really don’t get the respect that they deserve,” she says. “They’re the unsung heroes of diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

She also has some advice. “Despite the difficulties, I’d urge caregivers and people with [dementia] to try to find the humor in their lives,” she says. “John and I laugh about things, and it helps. People really need to know that.”

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Reviewed on April 22, 2009

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