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Dementia: The impact on families

By Ernesto Hidalgo

Ernesto Hidalgo is a bilingual psychologist who works with Dementia patients and their families, he also works with cancer patients and their families. Ernesto worked for more than 15 years with various non-profit organizations in California, USA, and currently offers support and psychological counselling to people around the world through his online agency:

Ernesto offers webinars on mental health and emotional well-being issues, facilitates support groups, offers individual and family sessions and collaborates with organizations and agencies in the United States, Latin America and Spain.

All psychological and medical terminology aside, I want to share with you the human impact that I saw on families affected by dementia and why it is very important to raise awareness about this disease so that we can help each other.

My name is Ernesto Hidalgo, I am a psychologist and for more than 10 years I worked with the Alzheimer’s Association in San Francisco, California, United States helping families with a loved one with Alzheimer's or other types of dementias.

Imagine that you are alone in a very busy foreign train station, with many people coming and going, speaking in different languages, there is a lot of noise and the whole situation is very confusing. You don't know what to do, where to go or who to talk to. Confusion, frustration and fear invades you. This is just a small example of what can happen to a dementia patient on any given day.

When the diagnosis of dementia is given by the doctor, you and your loved one are in a state of shock, your world stops and you want the whole world to stop with you to help you assimilate what the future holds for your loved one and for you.

When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, the effect on the entire family can be overwhelming. The diagnosis can trigger a range of emotions including anger, fear, frustration and sadness. There are also many decisions to make about treatment, care, living arrangements, finances and end-of-life care. As a result, family conflicts are common.

Caregivers face many obstacles as they balance caregiving with other demands, including child rearing, career, and relationships. They are at increased risk for burden, stress, depression, and a variety of other health complications. The effects on caregivers are diverse and complex, and there are many other factors that may exacerbate or ameliorate how caregivers react and feel as a result of their role. Numerous studies report that caring for a person with dementia is more stressful than caring for a person with a physical disability.

Raising awareness about dementia is important because the general public can show solidarity with patients and families who are going through this terrible experience, it is a call to action for all of us as a society to collaborate in finding ways to eradicate this disease and advocate for families who have a loved one with dementia. Education is the key to knowing about dementia and being attentive to the warning signs, risk factors and prevention in the elderly population

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