FAMILIES AND OTHER CARERS
DEMENTIA HAS AN ENORMOUS impact upon family and friends. Living with a person with dementia is often very stressful, particularly as the dementia progresses into the moderate and severe stages, and personality and behavioural changes become more apparent. Observing the gradual decline of a loved one from a competent individual to an incompetent dependent can be a harrowing experience. The demands upon the time and emotions of those providing care—the carers—can be huge. A famous book written about caregiving in the mid-1980s, by Peter Rabins and Nancy Mace, was entitled The 36-Hour Day. The title said it all for so many carers and it instantly became a bestseller worldwide. 1 However, caregiving is not all negative, and in this chapter I consider some of the positive aspects.
In previous chapters I have described how the early symptoms of dementia may be non-specific and are often attributed to other causes. Depending on the type of symptoms that predominate, the early impact of dementia upon family and friends is quite variable. There is little doubt, however, that spouses and others living with the dementing person experience the greatest impact.
Jim and his 74-year-old wife Penny lived a quiet, happy life. Jim first noticed that Penny was becoming forgetful when she kept losing her house keys. Initially it was a source of