Mental Health Matters: Finding the Right Emotional Support
Partners in FTD Care, Summer 2021
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Some people with FTD are aware of their losses, and can express their feelings and their struggles to cope with these changes. Others have lost this awareness and may appear apathetic or unaffected by the diagnosis. In either case, the person with FTD must adapt to a different life that can feel uncertain, empty, unfamiliar, and lonely.
Those with insight into their experience may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional—ideally one with experience working with neurological disease—to help name their feelings, including depression and anxiety, and process their loss. Alternatively, professional therapeutic interventions using art, music, or dance offer the chance to express and process emotions without words, while structured physical activities (walking, yoga, basketball, golf) in low-stimulus environments can provide positive ways to channel frustration and other emotions. Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of both physical activity and the creative arts on one’s cognition and mood—and they can be as beneficial for caregivers as they can for persons diagnosed. As awareness of this positive impact increases, many neurology offices, research centers, and local community services are more able to refer families to local providers of such therapies.
If a person with FTD is not expressing emotions about their loss, do not assume those emotions are not present. These unexpressed emotions can often present as disruptive behaviors. But addressing the underlying emotion can help minimize behaviors. Their mental health and wellness may well benefit greatly from more engagement, support, and connection.
It can be confusing and overwhelming for those caring for someone with FTD to know what approaches to care are best, what to prioritize, and how to balance their own needs with the changing needs of the person diagnosed. One important care goal is to connect families with professionals and experts at every stage of the illness to help them navigate the disease in a way that supports the best life of both the person diagnosed and the family members managing their care.
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