Nearly half of couples avoid difficult conversations – like illness

Alzheimer's Society offer help for couples struggling

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Almost half (48 percent) of couples avoid having difficult conversations with their partner, fearing a negative reaction – wanting to steer clear of discussing anything too sad, and preferring to keep things light. Research of 2,000 married adults, and those in long-term relationships, revealed themes of illness and death were too uncomfortable for many to broach.

More than a quarter (27 percent) would refuse to talk to their other half about how they’d like to be looked after should they get dementia – and 19 percent don’t want to address the subject of will-writing.

And when a serious topic is brought up, 42 percent find their partner tries to change the subject.

But a third believe their relationship would be strengthened if they opened up.

Dr Tim Beanland, Head of Knowledge at Alzheimer’s Society, which commissioned the research as part of its “Ultimate Vow” campaign, said: “Some of the more important conversations we need to have with our partners are also the most challenging.

“People need to feel comfortable and equipped to open up and ask those difficult questions.

“When it comes to dementia, it’s usually those closest to us who first notice changes that could indicate something is wrong, so it’s vital to speak up.”

More than seven in ten (72 percent) of those surveyed admitted there are simply some topics that are much harder to discuss than others.

Picking the right moment to broach a subject was the key to making a difficult chat easier, according to 45 percent – while couples therapy was the next most effective option for relationship issues.

And 68 percent confessed dementia is one of the illnesses they fear most – with their partner forgetting who they are, losing their best friend, and missing the way they usually spoke to each other, seen as the biggest struggles to overcome.

Four in five of those polled, via OnePoll, said managing life in general would be a difficult task while tending to an ill partner – with only 24 percent having discussed the wishes of their other half were they to get dementia.

Dr Beanland, from Alzheimer’s Society, which has a “relationship hub” on their website, where people can find advice on how to approach such sensitive topics, added: “A chat around a partner’s worrying symptoms, or wishes should they have dementia, must be approached sensitively.

“We have a wealth of information to help people feel more confident having these conversations, as we’ve seen the difficulties couples affected by dementia can face when fulfilling their vow to be there for each other “in sickness and in health”.

“It can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to provide that help and hope, every step of the way.

“A third of us will develop dementia in our lifetimes, but we at Alzheimer’s Society vow to end the devastation caused by the condition.”

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