Handling grief with someone who has dementia

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by tmo, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. tmo

    tmo Registered User

    Oct 4, 2015
    7
    My mother has dementia, it's very early stages but since I moved in a year ago to help as her carer and to take some of the load from my dad it has noticeably progressed. She insists she is getting better but there is a marked problem with her short term memory, her confidence has completely gone, she has mood swings (has even been aggressive towards me on occasion), seems to have lost her reasoning skills (or as our family calls them her logic circuits), and she has gained anxiety whenever she notices that she is having a problem with her memory that shows itself in minor panic attacks and ends with her crying and apologising for being stupid (this happens at least once a day). She has a very severe problem with her ability to concentrate as well which makes it hard to do simple things even with a list to follow.

    I'm finding it hard to deal with as every time I think I have a handle on things something changes.

    Today her brother died leaving her understandably upset and me upset for her. I don't seem to be upset about him dying though, which I think is because I'm having to deal with mum rather than with my own grief. I'm more than a little worried about her short term memory problems meaning that she'll forget and insist she wants to call him as he was in and out of hospital recently and she called him on a fairly regular basis. I don't know how to handle that, what to say to her. We're talking to the family who are still in the UK as we live abroad to finalise funeral arrangements and figure out flights for mum and dad and I'm sat here upset because mum is upset and worried about her forgetting he died because she sometimes forgets that other people she knew, really close friends of hers, have died within the last few years. Do you remind someone with dementia about that or not? If you do will they go through the grieving process as if it's fresh each time? I'm fairly lost with what I can do to make this better or what I might be able to do to help her remember and get through this or just how to deal with it if she does forget.
     
  2. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    10,526
    Female
    South coast
    I am so sorry to hear your sad news

    When someone with dementia and short-term memory loss is bereaved it is very, very common for them to forget that the person has died and then every time that you tell them about it it will be like the first time that they have heard and will be upset all over again. The usual advice is not to tell keep telling them that they have died and to distract then if they want to phone (perhaps hes on holiday) and if they want to go and visit, well you cant go now because the weather is bad, but you will see what you can organise.

    I am a little concerned about the idea of her flying over to attend the funeral. Do you think that she will be able to cope?
     
  3. tmo

    tmo Registered User

    Oct 4, 2015
    7
    Thank you.

    I think that's what I was worrying about exactly, I'll have to think of ways to distract her without lying to her either. She can have a major trust issue with both dad and I, usually about money but also about health issues so we try to make sure we don't lie to her.

    With regards flying over for the funeral I think it will be fine, she's gone on holiday with dad earlier this year and was good with that. I'm also aware that when she does remember things she would be very upset if she was unable to go to his funeral, I just can't tell what she will and won't remember so I may just be borrowing trouble but I've found it's best to figure things out before they happen than hope for the best and be unprepared.
     
  4. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    10,526
    Female
    South coast
    When you go to the funeral I wouldnt tell her in advance what you are doing as she is likely to obsess and keep asking about it - its a common way of trying to remember something. Tell her that you are going on holiday and only tell her about the funeral on the actual day. That way she will not be upset very long.

    Once dementia is in control your job is to reduce anxiety and keep them calm. I have no worries about telling "love lies" if the alternative will upset them.
     
  5. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    5,848
    Female
    Scotland
    This is a subject which crops up quite frequently in that people with dementia cannot remember being told that friends and family have died. Many people prefer to distract or gloss over the truth because it is distressing each time but I have found that I must tell the truth or there is a constant build up of wanting to go and visit the dead persons.

    Gradually the talk about phoning his brothers, going to meet them, having just talked to them etc is diminishing because each time I have to be matter of fact about their deaths and always remind him that my brother too has died. This is what happens in old age. People die.

    I don't advocate this approach for everyone but it works for us possibly because my husband would attempt to go and find his brothers if he thought they were still there.
     
  6. LOULOU05

    LOULOU05 Registered User

    Oct 2, 2015
    9
    Grief and bereavement

    Hi there,

    This isone that I know only too well. My mums brother passed away just 6 months before she went into care with her AD, and then 9 months later my dad passed away too.

    In the very early days after both her brother and my dads passing, when she asked where he was, each time we told her he was no longer here, her grief was unbrearable to watch - just like the first time we told her.

    As the weeks passed we realised that it was actually kinder to not remind her Dad/brother had passed away. She often used to make comments that she had not seen him for a while and wondered where he was and our answer woudl be "no we havent seen him either" and then , as others have said, use distration techniques to change the subject.

    We never lie to mum about those who have gone, but will try and answer in a way that satisfies her question or comment, and then move on to something else.

    To me it seemed so cruel to keep constantly making her relive the pain and grief of the bereavements.

    It is so hard, especially when you too are grieving.

    Hugs to anyone in this situaiton.

    xxx
     
  7. LOULOU05

    LOULOU05 Registered User

    Oct 2, 2015
    9
    Grief and bereavement

    Hi there,

    This is one that I know only too well. My mums brother passed away just 6 months before she went into care with her AD, and then 9 months later my dad passed away too.

    In the very early days after both her brother and my dads passing, when she asked where he was, each time we told her he was no longer here, her grief was unbrearable to watch - just like the first time we told her.

    As the weeks passed we realised that it was actually kinder to not remind her Dad/brother had passed away. She often used to make comments that she had not seen him for a while and wondered where he was and our answer woudl be "no we havent seen him either" and then , as others have said, use distration techniques to change the subject.

    We never lie to mum about those who have gone, but will try and answer in a way that satisfies her question or comment, and then move on to something else.

    To me it seemed so cruel to keep constantly making her relive the pain and grief of the bereavements.

    It is so hard, especially when you too are grieving.

    Hugs to anyone in this situaiton.

    xxx
     
  8. tmo

    tmo Registered User

    Oct 4, 2015
    7
    Thanks everyone, I'm trying to take the practical approach as it seems to keep mum calm. Unfortunately my dad has become frustrated with the obsession she has about the funeral (we didn't tell her she was going she told us she was going and has become obsessed about booking the flights or missing them). I totally understand his frustration just wish there was a way to make him handle it better. I know to answer questions without showing my frustration at it, sometimes I fail to do that but I do try but dad always seems to start with telling her how many times they've already had the conversation.

    I feel a bit like I'm caught in the middle trying to look after mum whilst trying to figure out how to re-educate dad so that he does things better. I know he loves her, I see it everyday, but he's having a much harder time dealing with all the small things - he's great at the big picture stuff but bad at the emotional stuff. Which sounds trite and stereotypical but seems to be true for us. If anyone has suggestions for helping other carers learn ways to do things I'm all ears :p

    Mum is still insistent that she wants me here to look after the dogs when they go to the funeral, I think it's her way of trying to hold on to them because she loves them so much she doesn't want to have them put into kennels again. I'm worried that dad isn't going to be able to cope on his own as mum's symptoms are much worse when she's upset and/or anxious and the grieving process is definitely exacerbating those issues. I'm going to ask my half sister if she can go with them to give an extra helping hand as she knows what mum's like but isn't with her full time which seems to give her extra patience when looking after mum.
     
  9. Mrs Mollon

    Mrs Mollon Registered User

    May 5, 2012
    7
    Northwood, Middx
    I suggest that you tell your ma that the doctor has said she must not fly as it will worsen her dementia and that the airline will not accept any responsibility. This may seem harsh but there is some truth in it and this would relieve you of your understandable problem. Years of visiting a care home has shown me that the best carers deal with problems by distraction techniques and not telling untruths.
     

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