There are many negative side effects to losing hope in our lives, and this is especially true for people newly diagnosed with dementia.
It usually takes a lot of time, a lot of courage, and often, a lot of support from others living with dementia, to discover you can live a meaningful, purposeful life after a diagnosis of dementia.
The impact on our brain health on losing hope is significant, and it is not the pathology of dementia causing symptoms of distress, but more often the loss of hope. Prescribed Disengagement® is directly responsible for a loss of hope, for people with dementia and our care partners and families and friends, and can also be the reason for people with dementia taking on learned helplessness.
Loss of hope can cause many things, for example:
- Feeling angry
- Feeling stressed and agitated
- Feeling helpless
- Increased risk of suicidal ideation and suicide
- Sense of isolation and increased loneliness
- Reduced (or lost) sense of purpose and meaning
- Increased suffering
If we think about this for a moment, we will see that most of these responses to a loss of hope are also currently seen by the ‘experts in dementia’ as symptoms due to the pathology of dementia. They are then labelled as the Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD), or as ‘Unmet needs,’ ‘Behaviours of distress,’ and so on.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that these are normal human responses to the loss of hope.
Losing hope brings with it an increased sense of isolation, and of loneliness. People start to doubt whether or not anyone actually cares about them, and start to feel invisible, as if their struggles aren’t known or cared for.
What makes this loss of hope, or hopelessness, worse is that people with dementia are still being advised there is nothing anyone can do, and to go home and prepare for ‘the end’ via community or aged care.
This is instead of being supported — including with proactive disability support — to live their best lives.