I lost my mom not long ago. She was a special lady. When my mom was in her last months of life, my Director of Nursing at the senior living community where I worked gave me great advice. She told me to, “spend as much time as you can with her. Have no regrets”. My boss was kind and supportive saying, “I am so sorry, what can I do?”. My church rallied around me and provided meals, telling me, “now’s not the time to be worrying about how to nourish yourself”. My friends assured me that this was a hard loss. Facebook friends offered condolences. On some level, everyone understood my pain and offered support.
As a Community Resource Director for JEA Senior Living, I meet with families and educate them on the option of a Memory Care community and other services that will help them through their dementia journey. When I talk with families, I hear their loss though their loved one is still alive. I wonder, “Are they receiving the kind of support and understanding that I received?”. Have people rallied around them and made them feel loved? Was my grief similar to theirs?”. I soon realized that Dementia grief is actually a more complicated grief.
Dementia grief experts talk of how loved ones experience varied kinds of grief. Let me highlight five of them:
- The first is, “Anticipatory Grief”. This is grief that is experienced as one sees their loved one slipping away psychologically (and eventually, physically). Those who have a long illness (for example, cancer) also experience this.
- The second kind of grief is “Compounded Grief”. This is a grief that experiences multiple losses at one time. For example, a husband who always did the finances, drove, etc. is now unable. The losses build on one another.
- The third grief is called, “Disenfranchised Grief”. This is the grief that you cannot talk about freely. It could be difficult behaviors that the loved one is experiencing, that one might be uncomfortable telling friends. This grief tends to isolate the caregiver.
- The fourth grief is “Ambiguous Loss”. This is grief that lacks clarity and closure. Grief expert, Dr. Kesstan Blandin, writes, “…It is very difficult to grieve someone who may no longer be psychologically present as a spouse… but who remains very much a physical presence with ever increasing needs for care that must be met.”
- Lastly the grief of a loss reconciliation… how does one resolve disagreements or seek forgiveness when the person is no longer able to accomplish this? Closure becomes a very difficult or impossible accomplishment.
Hopefully by understanding the complexities of dementia grief, one realizes the need to support and encourage those walking this journey. If you are currently a caregiver, we recognize your daily challenges in caring for your loved one. Now allow us to care for you through our monthly Dementia Support Groups hosted by each of our JEA Senior Living communities.
For more information, please contact a JEA community near you - https://www.jeaseniorliving.com/communities, or call us directly at 1-800-254-9442.