Oct 31, 2018

Dementia Care 10 Practical Suggestions for Coping With Grief

Dementia caregivers and those who care for persons living with Alzheimer's are especially vulnerable to grief; and, if they are not careful these feelings can overwhelm them.

Grief is a component of dementia care and Alzheimer's care.
By Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

All Alzheimer’s caregivers will sooner or later experience grief.

My previous article published here, Alzheimer's Care and Grief, Types, Stages and Symptoms provided an introduction to grief - the types, stages, and symptoms.

This article discusses 10 practical, down-to-earth suggestions for dealing with grief.

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Some of the 10 suggestions below were taken from my interview with Dianne Gray, President of the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation. See the end of this article for details about the other sources cited.

Caring for someone during the long decline of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia means enduring many losses. We aren't just taking care of the people we love; we're simultaneously grieving for them. Social workers call this paradox "anticipatory grief."

Dementia caregivers and those who care for the terminally ill are especially vulnerable to anticipatory grief. Source Caring.com


10 Practical Suggestions for Coping With Grief

1. Love yourself unconditionally (Gray): Ms. Gray says this is the single most important thing to do when you are grieving.

2. Accept your feelings and know they are normal (APA): The APA article states that “People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone close. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are all normal.”

3. Don’t cut yourself off from friends and family (Gray): According to Ms. Gray, it’s important to realize how helpful socializing with friends and family members can be.

4. Talk with sympathetic friends of family members, especially those who have weathered similar situations, about your feelings (Marley): Talking about your grief can be extremely helpful, especially if the person to whom you’re talking is a good listener.

5. Maintain a healthy diet (Gray): It’s important to maintain healthy habits and not overeat—especially not sugar.

6. Get plenty of rest (Gray): Rest is revitalizing and can be a big help to those who are grieving.

7. Exercise (Gray): Exercise leads the body to produce endorphins, which improve mood.

8. Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs (Gray): When they are grieving, some people self-medicate with too much alcohol and/or with illegal drugs. Avoid these because they will only make you feel worse.

9 Join an online or in person support group (Marley): Sharing your feelings with others who are going through the same experience can help lessen your depression.

Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense. Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression.

The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one. Source: APA


10. Get professional help if you can’t function in daily life, you feel suicidal, you are abusing alcohol, or you are using illicit drugs (Marley): If you fit into any of the above categories, it would be a good idea to seek help from a family doctor, psychiatrist and/or therapist.

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Sources Cited

1. Dianne Gray, President of the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation — Interview conducted on October 29, 2016.

2. American Psychology Association (APA) Grief and Loss: Coping With the Loss of Your Loved One.

3. Caring.com. Anticipatory Grief: How to Cope With the “Living Death” of Alzheimer’s.

4. Marley. Alzheimer’s Disease and Grief: The Anguish of Multiple Losses.

Marie Marley is the author of the award-winning “Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy” and co-author (with neurologist Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of “Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers”. Her website ComeBackEarlyToday.com contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

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Sadness is a normal human emotion. Sadness is an emotional pain associated with, or characterized by, feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow.

Grief is a form of deep sorrow that is often emotionally and psychologically overwhelming.