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Reactions of family and friends to the diagnosis

2.7 Reactions of family and friends to the diagnosis

Other carers describe a range of reactions by family and friends when they tell them about the diagnosis

You and the person you support may worry about how other people will react to hearing the diagnosis. Family and friends will react to dementia in different ways:

  • Many family and friends are supportive. They listen, make useful suggestions, offer practical help and make accommodations without making a fuss. This makes sharing the diagnosis a positive experience. You may both feel loved and that you have people walking forward beside you.
  • Some family and friends are overly supportive, such that you feel mollycoddled or the person you support feels like they are being ‘wrapped in cotton wool’.
  • Some family and friends don’t know what to say and avoid the topic. This can result in feeling embarrassed or awkward when these people are around.
  • Some family and friends are disbelieving and question whether the person really has dementia “you don’t look like you have dementia”. When they get this reaction some people with dementia then feel that they’re not being believed, while others might interpret it as the person not seeing them any differently. This Dementia Alliance International video is of 14 people with dementia talking about their experience of being told they don’t ‘look like’ they have dementia.
  • Some family and friends become really upset at the news. Sometimes this is felt as unhelpful because they don’t want sympathy or pity, while others might find this comforting that the other person cares so much.

The way some family and friends react however well intended, may not feel helpful to you. In the next page 2.8 Sharing the diagnosis with family and friends there are some ideas about how to share the diagnosis so that your family and friends have enough information about how they can support you.