To mark World Alzheimer’s Month, we’d like to acknowledge everyone who is living or has lived through their loved one’s decline from this disease. Our hearts go out to you.
From the early signs, when you barely notice anything is wrong, to witnessing confusion, to the point where your loved one barely recognises you – all come with a layer of heartbreak and feelings of loss. Each appointment that brings another reminder of gradual decline can hit you like a tonne of bricks.
Grieving the Living: Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s causes multiple losses
Then there’s the grief of watching your loved one’s day-to-day losses, such as losing the ability to do simple tasks like holding cutlery.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, chances are you’re also experiencing your own losses, too; your loss of normal, work, freedom, hopes, dreams and expectations, loss of the future you had planned with your loved one.
As your loved one withdraws more and more, you’re likely to feel grief for their death by inches, even though they’re still living. There is the anticipation or ‘dark cloud’ hanging over you with how and when death might come. It really is a cruel disease.
Once you’ve experienced a loss by Alzheimer’s, it’s not uncommon to feel relief, and let that be ok. It means that you have seen and felt their suffering over a period of years, and now they’re spared from more suffering. It’s also normal to feel abandoned or angry.
Alzheimer’s loss and grief
What you can do
1. Prepare to experience feelings of grief and loss more than once. Feelings of loss aren’t just reserved for death. Acknowledge your feelings. Putting a label on them takes the sting out of them.
2. Being a carer for someone with dementia can feel very isolating. Try and find a support group, even online, as it will help you feel connected to others in a similar situation.
3. If you’re able to, try and find some time for you, even if it’s for five minutes outside to breathe in some fresh air. This will help you to recharge.
4. Talk to someone you trust, who will just listen without judgement or interruption. You need to be heard (not fixed!).
5. Please contact me if you require online or personal support.