Lay Publications

Living With Semantic Dementia: A Case Study of One Family's Experience.

This paper explores what it is like to live and communicate with someone who has semantic dementia. Semantic dementia is a relatively rare form of progressive brain disease which affects a person’s ability to understand the world around them. It shows itself gradually as a person finds that they are having more and more difficulty understanding what is said to them and more and more difficulty finding their own words to reply. The person who has this kind of dementia does not forget where they are or what has happened to them (unlike others who have Alzheimer’s dementia for example).
In this study, the wife and son of the person with dementia talked about how they have adapted their lives since their father/husband had been ill and how they have changed the way they talk and interact with him. Both indicated that living with someone who had this illness placed everyone in the family under stress as they worked out how to live with a person who did not behave as they did before. The family found that they watched carefully what their father/husband did as they were constantly worried for his safety. Both the wife and son found that it was very hard to talk and to connect with him as the number of topics he could talk about became more and more reduced.
There were four ways in which the family adapted: the first was to find and keep to a routine; the second was to keep a close eye on what the husband/father wanted to do and try and shape this so as to keep him safe, the third was to keep talking with him about the things he was showing an interest in and finally to be prepared to alter and change what they talked about and what they did so as to keep down the distress that not understanding caused him. Both the wife and son found this physically and emotionally challenging.