|Dealing with Grief and Loss|
by Jane Verity
The loss of a spouse or close family member is traumatic at any time, but how do you deal with the complex emotions of the person with dementia during this time? People with dementia can fluctuate day to day and there are no hard and fast rules of what to do.
The key is to shift your focus and go with the flow of each situation as it arises whilst concentrating on meeting the emotional needs of the person with dementia.
Take every opportunity to boost self-identity and self-esteem. If a loved one is terminally ill, perhaps the person with dementia could be involved on some level in their care. They may be able to make a cup of tea or help them get dressed which will enable them to feel needed and useful.
When the social inhibitions lift, you may find that someone who was previously distant or difficult takes on a new persona and shows a new empathy or understanding of those around them. This may give them the opportunity to share special moments with their loved ones in their final days.
After a loved one has passed away, the person with dementia may fluctuate from being aware of what has happened, to looking for the person who has died. It is vital to show respect for their situation and avoid accentuating their emotional pain. Little is achieved by telling the person searching for their spouse, ‘Don't you know your husband is dead?' This approach may result in the person reliving their initial pain, as if they experiencing the loss for the first time. The person with dementia may be looking for what that person represented to them and may have even gone back to a time in their minds when they were feeling nurtured.
Be proactive by shifting your focus and looking for the unmet emotional need, ‘Tell me about your memories of your husband' is a specific question that enables the person to reminisce and may give an indication of what they are missing in this reality. Your challenge is to meet that core need in a way that creates a supportive environment. Enable the person to express in whatever way possible what they need then find a creative may to meet it.
Everyone deals with the passing of a loved one differently and people with dementia are no exception. The key is to go with the flow of each day. When you redirect the query to a loved one's whereabouts you are simply finding a way to identify what that person needs in the present situation whilst avoiding increased anxiety or unnecessary distress