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Time.com article is titled, "Spouses of dementia patients at higher risk themselves."

Compared with other aging individuals whose husbands or wives do not suffer from dementia, those whose spouses are diagnosed with the condition are six times more likely to develop dementia themselves, according to new research.

The article continues, citing the stress and responsibility of caring for a spouse with dementia notable factors in this increased risk (not to mention loss of sleep, much like the experience of new parents).

In my opinion, it's more subtle than that. First, there is the issue of long term interaction with a person whose cognition is impaired, imparing the cognition of the other person. It's a push/pull thing. Over time, there is a tendency to build repeated interaction patterns which may work within the relationship, but are dysfunctional when translated to interactions outside the family.

Second, there is a need to accept the dementia world as real, in order to work with the person who is sick. As the spouse (or significant other) accepts the sick patterns, he/she becomes ill as well. The outward appearance of the disabled person remains as it was when they were healthy, adding to the danger of accepting the mentation as healthy. Increased age and vulnerability of the caregiver exacerbates the problem.

The more I see this, the more I realize how critical it is for caregivers to maintain outside normal contacts and not allow the dementia patient to define their mutual world and confine the caregiver to a narrow existence of medications, diapers, catheters, and crazy conversations.

So I fight tooth and nail to keep up my contacts outside my home, I refuse to retire, I maintain my friendships and connect with other caregivers. My eternal gratitude to them all for giving me a sane world outside my home.

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