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Supporting women with dementia


Jen Marks By nature I am rather carefree and upbeat and although it is important for me to remain so when I am in my support role, I am also aware of the need to demonstrate sensitivity when recounting my weekly escapades! These Lovely ladies are not able to lead the full life that I am blessed with. As a support worker to woman of a similar age to myself, I am profoundly aware of this.

However, it is an emotional balancing act. On the one hand, these remarkable ladies want and need to hear about my week, how my family is, girly gossip and man talk! On the other hand, I am conscious that it must be difficult to hear my tales of the normality that comes with NOT having to live with Dementia and I have sensed an air of subtle resentment at times.

As Single ladies they have the same fundamental human motivation to have meaningful, satisfying and intimate relationships as any other woman. However, having early onset dementia brings huge challenges to forming these connections. This dementia is still only really understood and acknowledged by those it affects directly and indirectly. Starting a relationship is daunting at any time, and brings with it new demands and expectations. Add in the mix, explaining and coping with dementia and the anxiety and stress this generates, and you have a complicated recipe to begin anything with.

It is my greatest pleasure and inordinate privilege to support these incredible women. Their indomitable spirit, perseverance, courage and unfailing good humour in the face of unspeakable adversities, is both wondrous and humbling. Possibly I feel more connected to them than the men I support because of the female bond and the common interests we share because we are women. It is that necessary link that forms the basis of our relationships but my reality is very different from their reality and that knowledge is always in the background for us when we are together.

We have different personalities, beliefs, and, of course interests but, being women and also mothers, we have an intuition, an appreciation of each other, even though their understanding of my life may create a barricade between us at times; because I can never know what it is like to live with Dementia and all the challenges it brings, just as they cannot return to the relatively unimpeded life experience that I am, gratefully, living.

However, I do believe that our relationships are constantly refreshed by the others approach to life. In a way, we are so inextricably linked, both because of the support and companionship I am blessed with being able to give; and the life lessons I have taken from them. I have never appreciated more, that all we have at any given moment is whatever that moment holds.

The radiance of the joy these incredible women find in the small things that many of us take for granted is truly inspirational and motivates me to be a better person.

Jen Marks, One to One Support Worker, Young Dementia UK

Tags: relationships, women living alone, workforce Written 2014-09-15

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