Grief is a constant yet hidden companion of dementia – grief experienced by the person living and dying with dementia and grief experience by the caregivers, family and friends.
These ongoing losses, some of which are rather ambiguous, may not be recognized or understood by the persons experiencing the many losses or by their community of support. When loss is not understood, the associated grief is often not understood or sanctioned and the griever is usually not supported. People may think that persons with dementia will not know what they are losing and may not grieve the losses.
Persons with early stage dementia may be well aware of the losses and the pending losses. Later in disease the person may have feelings of loss but be less able to identify the loss or the grief.
Acknowledging and validating the loss can help the person to grieve and adapt to their new world. When a person expresses anger, anxiety, or other grief behaviour do not dismiss the possibility that the person is experiencing grief.
Ideas to communicate support include: acknowledge losses, provide empathetic support and a caring presence, and reassure and remind the person of continued relationships.
What ideas, suggestions do you have for supporting a person with dementia who is grieving their losses?