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I care for my wife who has severe dementia and clinically blind. My question is, her family are distancing themselves from her is this typical for family to do this. Is it a human instinct to do it?

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I think it is because it can be hard to watch that person age into someone you dont recognize, or doesnt act the same as they once did. You might like to converse with them, but what if they cant? What if they act different, or are upset, argumentative, or unresponsive etc?
Nursing homes are full of people that dont get many visitors. Or not often. I think it isnt because people dont care. I think it is to shield themselves from the pain of knowing their loved one is not the same vibrant person they once were. And you are watching that person become a shell of who they once were.
I think it is extremly emotionally painful. Especially if they have dementia and they dont know who you are, or can no longer hold a conversation. You might be visiting someone who just sleeps around the clock. Do you stay for hours, or 5 minutes? How do you have a conversation with someone who cant? Im sure they could have a conversation with you, but that is also painful in a way. They probably feel guilty for not visiting more, not helping more, and seeing your pain with dealing with caretaking.

I think life is for the living and the elderly slowly withdrawl from the world and into their homes and then their room. And then into sleeping more and more. I think that happens for a reason. To disconnect them from the world slowly to get ready for the transition of death.
If you ever saw the dining room at the nursing home, the residents dont talk to each other very much. Hardly a word. Even the people who dont have dementia. They keep to themselves. It is the staff and families who do the talking. They answer, but dont usually initiate conversation. Or have one for very long.
When I went to visit my dad I always dreaded it. Would he look well, would he be sick? Sometimes he would look great, and other times he looked awful. Would he be awake, or asleep? It was hard to see him looking so frail and poorly. Would there be a new resident yelling or wanting to fight me for some perceived problem? Would I be asked too many questions by the staff again. They always wanted to know how often I visited and when. One time I walked into what would have seemed an 18th century asylum. I never heard so much screaming and carrying on by mult residents. Luckily it only happened 1 time. Must have been several new residents. I was so distressed for the situation, my dad having to live thru that, and not being able to do anything. I did talk to staff. It was so horrible. But I digress.

It is hard for family to visit because it reminds them of how awful dementia is. You generally leave upset knowing you can get a call any minute they are back in the hospital for the 20th time. Are they going to live through the night? They looked like they wouldnt last another 5 minutes, but they lasted another 9 months.

What do people do when they dont want to deal with something painful. They put if off. Keep themselves extra busy as to not think about it. Procrastinate. Come up with excuses. I think it is just human nature because it is unpleasant. I dont think they mean to be cruel with their absence. It is just so emotionally hard.
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Fitzgerald Nov 2018
It is selfish. All the pretty phrases about how hard it is and how painful it is are all about self — shielding, etc. — all about self and not about the other person — the actual sufferer.
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Unfortunately from what I have experienced and what I have read on this forum.. it is typical for family and friends to distance themselves.

My parents both have dementia and pretty much all family has distanced themselves. My siblings dont call, visit, or even ask how they are doing.. both for my parents and me. The same goes for my mom's family who she has sisters that live here in town who act like she no longer exists.

This is very painful for me.. probably more painful for me then it is to them since they dont have the memory to remember when the last time they saw everyone.. so thankfully they do not completely feel the pain of their rejection and lack of love or support.

One thing you have to focus on is yourself.. and try to avoid getting stuck in the anger, resentment rut. (this happened to me).. you cannot make people care or do the right thing and anger and resentment will only hurt you.. try to remember that... I know it is hard.

I wish people were more empathetic and cared.. I don't know what it is but dealing with my parent's dementia has really changed the way I look at family in particular.

Try to look for a support group, post here.. try to find others who can be more supportive to your situation.

((hugs))
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I don’t think it’s typical, but it does happen. People have an idea in their minds in how their loved ones should look and act, and when that changes, they cast about trying to find the correct way to act and thing to do. When they can’t find an answer within themselves, they just do nothing. I guess it might be a version of the “flight or fight” syndrome. Some people feel they need to visit for hours and hours and some people visit once every few months, or not at all.

Dont blame these people or stress yourself out. They are who they are and you cannot change their behavior. If they call to ask how she is, tell them and then mention, “You know, she’d love a visit from you.” Then just sit back and enjoy the uncomfortable silence.
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You are giving your wife a wonderful gift, and are on your own journey together.

Different people have different abilities. In some, seeing illness or death, it triggers fear instead of compassion. Bringing the realization they are vulnerable also.

When my husband was ill people who I knew loved him stepped back. It made me sad until I realize that they just were not capable of more!
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I'm not sure if it's an instinct but it does happen. Relatives don't know what to say or do, it can be uncomfortable and scary. I wonder if these are close relatives such as adult children or more like cousins or nieces or nephews. Cousins, nieces, and nephews can get a pass but if her adult children aren't visiting her that's a shame.
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My experience with my Mom’s dementia was that once she didn’t know her friends and family very few came to see her. I think one of the other posters said it best - people are fearful, uncomfortable and their instinct is not to be involved. It’s a lonely journey caring for a loved one afflicted with this disease. May God bless you-as I often felt alone and overwhelmed. One of the the things that I always said was, “She May not know me, but I still know her. She is still in there and she will always be my Mom.”
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dianec627 Nov 2018
Very well stated.
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Wow! Every time I read a responses on here I am just stunned by the compassion from those of you who understand the failings of human beings and still stay loving, even offering family members kindness. Your wisdom shines like a light. Your words are like poetry and offer much relief, I'm sure, to others.

My brother who ignored my parents for years has just finished a single year of caregiving and announced that he is done doing it. He is planning to move out of state and I will be the only one to watch over both my parents who need help. I know he is running away. My other brother ran away a couple of years ago. Neither one wants to see them decline and are too selfish to help. If I get one more email that says, we are so far away, but we sure wish we could help.

I have no better answer, but I think the response below is accurate and well said. (One of many.)

"One thing you have to focus on is yourself.. and try to avoid getting stuck in the anger, resentment rut. (this happened to me).. you cannot make people care or do the right thing and anger and resentment will only hurt you.. try to remember that... I know it is hard.

I wish people were more empathetic and cared.. I don't know what it is but dealing with my parent's dementia has really changed the way I look at family in particular."

Hugs to you.
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Clarise1 Nov 2018
Isn't that the truth. I've released my resentment but I too, look at family totally differently, loss of respect- I guess?? Regardless, just makes me sad for my mom.
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It is NOT our human instinct to turn away, although unfortunately it IS a typical response.

Those who turn away may not understand that even thought your wife has severe dementia and is not connecting with memory, words or the ability to offer cultural substance to others, she DOES have 'awareness' and senses in the present moment...and still feels. This is something not too many people understand, as we judge others inability to communicate and participate as them 'not being there' at all.

My mother is 97 and 1/2. My husband and I have taken care of her for 10 years. She has ALZ and vascular dementia. She hears your voice and its intonations, she feels a loving touch on her skin and smiles, she sees in the moment and can tell you she likes your hairdoo or outfit color, she intuitively senses how you approach her and will respond in kind to that approach by either relaxing in the moment or contracting and disconnecting further from the person. She feels your energy and those of others, even though she may not recognize or know their names.

Most of us are not in-tune with the energetics of each other, although we intuitively sense when we feel comfortable or not with a person, even though we do not know them. Most of us are only aware of personality and cultural adaptations.

I find that when family judges a dementia patient and distance themselves from this type of situation, it is due to their own heart limitations and non-understanding of who we truly are as spirits living a human life. It is their loss and they are showing their own shortcomings. It is who they are and unless they change, you cannot change them.

You are lovingly offering your wife the energetic support that she needs right now. It is subtle, yet real. You are her connection to security and her own level of aliveness. To be a caregiver to a dementia person is not an easy role to live 24/7.

You have a great heart. Remember that when times get tough. Remember too to take inward-resting-breaks when you are able. Find ways to laugh out loud. [I have watched so many funny movies and learnt to make jokes too. :-) which I truly needed to do as I used to take things very seriously.]

My blessings and smiles go to you and your wife.
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I think it is quite common. Not everyone has the mental and emotional fortitude it takes to spend time with someone who can’t interact, and who are clearly not the person they were before becoming ill. In the case of dementia patients, I don’t think they really notice there’s a lack of visitation, but for their care givers, it’s very obvious.

My husband was in a nursing home with severe dementia for nearly a year before he died, and no one but our kids and I visited him. He was in a facility far from home, but we made sure we there at least weekly, and most of the time, more often. It made me sad that it seemed no one else cared enough about him to visit, but I realized they just didn’t know what to say and it was hard to do. When it’s hard, people just put it off, and probably never make a conscious decision about it, they just avoid it. We all noticed that it seemed like the other patients rarely had visitors, so I think it is pretty common.

I still am a little sad about it, but honestly, it wouldn’t have made his life any better. Dementia is just sad in general, and there’s not a lot that can be done to change that. Deciding not to be mad was easier on me.
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Summer55 Nov 2018
I'm sorry but I have to disagree to a point. My mom is 91 and has dementia and is in AL and I am danm sick and tired of excuses from my brothers that they can't call her for 10 to 15 mins a week! I had wonderful parents and do they think that mom left there sides when something happened? NO they were there through it all. And yes she does notice and it breaks her heart. So I feel go ahead and live with the regret. I have been there for her and will be till her last breath.
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Some people have legitimate reasons for not being there and sometimes I don't blame them. I spent two hours with my father yesterday and every minute I was there was pure torture. He is angry and feels sorry for himself. He refuses to accept his situation. He has been abusive for years and treats me poorly despite the fact his sons neglected him years ago. Nothing I ever do pleases him. Yet my brothers are heroes in his eyes. I wanted to walk out the door and leave him there. He didn't take care of me, my mother did all the work. Not everybody has golden moments or great parents.
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