and other forms of progressive dementia often have a profound impact on spousal relationships. While one spouse gradually becomes a care receiver and the other a caregiver, the very nature of their bonding ties begins to change.
Couples normally enjoy activities together, such as a meal, movies, travel, walks, or visits with friends and family. Couples engage in supportive conversations, sharing their views, daily experiences, and a good laugh at the end of the day. Developing a unique way of communicating with one another, and creating a history and identity together-raising families, developing social relationships, attending social engagements, making a home-couples become a strong social unit. Dementia, however, may affect every one of those relationship building-blocks that couples so lovingly cultivate together, often over a lifetime.
Changes in perception, memory, and attention tend to render many previously enjoyed activities unsuitable to dementia patients. Caregiving spouses will find that they must adapt their own activities in order to accommodate their partners' ability to participate. Dementia affects communication skills and patients are no longer able to share those private conversation moments in the same way, living a void for their caregiver partners. Patients may decrease they interest in participating in social activities, distancing themselves from friends and family, even forgetting precious memories of a cherished marital history.
A decline in shared activities, loss of a spouse's emotional support, and the erosion of verbal communications between the couple-taken together, these factors will ultimately impact intimacy. The very nature of the relationship is affected as dementia-related symptoms begin to alter mood, behavior, and ability to conduct personal interactions. Caregiver spouses are also deeply affected by these changes, often reporting feelings of increased loneliness and a longing for having the vanishing relationship back to where it was.