Love’s Lasting Legacy: Honoring Relationships Touched By Dementia

Love is a powerful force that knows no boundaries! It transcends time, age, and even the profound challenges that life may throw our way including dementia, a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Dementia slowly erodes memories, impairs verbal and cognitive abilities and is associated with a number of brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. It is devastating both for those who suffer from the disease and the loved ones who have to witness their progressive cognitive decline. But through all these losses, love has the power to remain steadfast, anchor relationships, and provide a sense of familiarity and connection even when the memories fade.

In my Aging Life Care® practice, HealthSense, I have seen couples affected by the disease be a remarkable and resilient source of strength, comfort, and stability for each other. With the dulling of executive functioning skills, those with dementia compensate with heightened sensory powers, and this can help them find new ways to connect, communicate and express themselves. Non-verbal cues, touch, and gestures become the new normal for conveying affection and understanding. For those of us with intact cognition, it is we who need to understand this new language of how to best communicate and show love. 

Those with dementia often experience alterations in the perception of self and reality and may exhibit changes in personality and behavior. The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates emotions and is responsible for fear and flight reactions; and in dementia, it takes the lead over the frontal lobes that guide executive functioning and decision making. This calls for patience and a high degree of empathy, as those with dementia may be quick to feel fear and frustration. It is vital for loved ones to approach these changes with empathy, recognizing that these behaviors are a manifestation of the disease and not a deliberate choice. Responding to and validating emotions takes precedence over trying to correct or make sense of confused content and fractured memories. Instead, use simple words and sentences and keep your vocal tone low and relaxed. Avoid open-ended questions and give easy-to-understand choices. Break down activities into simple steps and listen with your eyes, ears and most of all your heart to find the hidden meaning and feelings behind the words or actions. When the going gets tough, learn the art of distraction and humor. 

Love can thrive on familiarity, and this holds true in the context of dementia. Establishing routines and creating a familiar environment can help individuals with dementia feel secure and grounded. Familiar faces, objects, and activities can evoke a sense of comfort and stability, reinforcing the bonds of love. 

Amidst the challenges and uncertainties of dementia, moments of connection become even more precious. Whether it’s a fleeting smile, a shared laugh, or a gentle touch, these moments remind us of the enduring power of love. It is in these moments that the essence of a person shines through, transcending the limitations imposed by the disease. For more information on supporting your aging loved ones with dementia go to the Aging Life Care Association or seek a trusted local resource that can offer support groups and training If you are looking for high-caliber private hire caregivers or companions with dementia experience and expertise, consider Holistic HomeCare Associates where caregivers are matched to each client’s unique and specific needs.

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Anne C. Sansevero RN, MA, GNP, CCM
Aging Life Care ® Professional
Founder & CEO
HealthSense LLC
240 East 47th St 38D
New York, NY 10017
Ph: (646) 241-3463
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Aging Life Care Association® National Board President Emerita
Aging Life Care Association® New York Chapter President Emerita