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How to Help a Beloved Alzheimer's Sufferer Cope with Spousal Death

Added on October 13, 2017 by Marie_Villeza

How to Help a Beloved Alzheimer's Sufferer Cope with Spousal Death | holding hands

The death of a spouse is an especially difficult life event to experience; this trial poses an even more daunting challenge to sufferers of Alzheimer's, who must now live without their primary caregiver and mate. The dementia sufferer will typically express random bouts of confusion as he or she attempts to process the lost. This further affects already grieving family members who are aching to see their loved one properly grieve the loss of his or her spouse.

However, depending on the severity of the illness, the surviving spouse may not have the sufficient memory bandwidth to process the death.

Alzheimer's Issues

Alzheimer's sufferers have experienced many issues as their condition has progressed – things like losing their ability to drive, play an instrument, partake in creative hobbies, and, most of all, remaining independent as adults. The loss of relationships and memories are a huge blow. Always cognizant of such losses, dementia sufferers and their loved ones experience a lot of stress.

How Alzheimer's patients cope with spousal death is influenced by many things, including: the stage of their condition, how attached they were to their spouse, how often they saw him or her, and their own personal path of grieving.

Processing the Grief

The normal process of accepting the death of a loved one usually entails accepting the reality of the passing, adapting one's life to the loss, and discovering a new "normal." In time, the pain of the loss gives way to occasional (bitter)sweet reminiscing. A person with Alzheimer's, however, can rarely process grief enough to reach a healthy emotional conclusion – complete acceptance without the heart-wrenching pain.

Alzheimer's patients who are in mourning are often restless and agitated. They may perceive that something is missing, something is off. They may believe someone else died. The death might trigger the memory of a loss from their younger years. In such cases, it can be difficult for family members to decide how to treat the topic of spousal death with their loved one. Especially when repeatedly communicating the death to the Alzheimer's sufferer can worsen the grief of his or her family members.

Accepting the Loss

 

  • Speak of the person who died in the past tense. For example, "I loved Mom's chocolate chip cookies."
  • Converse with your loved one about the deceased person and express your sad feelings. For example: "I miss Mom. She always made Christmas so special, didn't she? Remember when she…" Open photo albums together and talk about your mutual memories of the deceased to help your loved one mourn properly.
  • Be open to how often he or she wants to talk about the deceased, which may take place often, not frequently or at all.
  • When the time comes to sort through the belongings of the deceased so as to make decisions on what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, what to give to other family members, etc., have the dementia sufferer hold certain positive nostalgia objects in his or her hands. The idea is to stimulate the tactile and visual memory of the Alzheimer's sufferer so that his or her mind "jumps" to positive memories of the deceased. He or she may then open up and express certain emotions over the person who is gone. This method is recommended for Alzheimer's sufferers who are unusually quiet about the absence of their spouse.

A Final Thought

It takes tremendous patience to support your loved one with Alzheimer's during this trying time. But family members should prioritize being patient with themselves above all during this "open grief" period of vulnerability. Find comfort and solace amongst yourselves to deal with the sad, lonely, frustrating and painful feelings you are all jointly feeling.

Be extra, extra supportive of each other as you try to overcome this loss. In doing so, you will all find the strength and courage to do your best in helping your loved one with Alzheimer's process the reality of the death. Have hope this can be achieved. Your hope will sustain you.


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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

 

 

 

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