When your loved one has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they will rely on your support, patience, and love to help them navigate the complexities of life to come.
It may be difficult for you and your family to come to terms with the diagnosis, but doing your research can help you make sure you’re there for your loved one in their time of need. Take some time to understand how your loved one’s feelings will manifest right after being diagnosed, and as the disease progresses.
Dementia Grief & Anticipatory Grief
You and your loved one might experience what is called anticipatory grief immediately after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Your loved one may be obsessing over the changes they will experience and the memories and relationships they will lose as the disease progresses. They will also likely be thinking about how their plans for their future and their hopes and dreams will be affected by the diagnosis.
Dementia grief is a similar feeling and thought process, but it is specific to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Your loved one may experience this type of grief if they are cognizant of their progressing memory problems, trouble communicating, reasoning skills, and their understanding of their disease and its future.
For some people, anticipatory grief and dementia grief are very hard to deal with, and can lead to depression, isolation, anger, and anxiety. It’s important that you and your loved one have people to talk to about your feelings.
Ambiguous Loss or Living Grief
Ambiguous loss, or living grief, is a feeling of loss that occurs while a person is still alive. Your loved one’s spouse, you, and other family members may experience ambiguous loss because your loved one’s personality and behavior has changed so much that you don’t recognize them anymore.
Your loved one may even experience living grief as they mourn the loss of their memories and their relationship with you, their spouse, their children, and other family members.
Feelings That Progress as Dementia Progresses
As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one’s feelings may also progress and change. Their feelings of loss and grief may amplify as time goes by. They may feel cheated, frustrated, angry, and resentful. They may lash out at you, their caregivers, and other family members as they process these feelings.
It isn’t unusual for people to have days or weeks that are fine, and then all of a sudden revert back to feelings of grief and fear. You may find that you are alternating between supporting their feelings to becoming more and more of a caregiver for their daily needs.
They will become more and more dependent on you and their in-home caregivers for physical and emotional support. Keep in mind that there is no one way that people grieve or process an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The way your loved one behaves will depend on their personality, their relationship with you, how the disease is affecting them, and what stage of dementia they are in.
Coping With Your Feelings
It’s important to make time for your own feelings when you’re providing Alzheimer’s care to a loved one. If you don’t take the time to manage your feelings and seek support, you may experience caregiver burnout.
You also won’t be as effective a caregiver or as supportive to your loved one if you are ignoring your own feelings or pushing them aside. Dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be as emotional, taxing, and confusing for you as it is for your loved one.
Your feelings are natural and valid. Don’t be afraid to seek support from a therapist, counselor, spiritual advisor, support group, or friends and family. You can cope with your feelings by:
- Finding ways to express your feelings in a healthy way and a supportive environment
- Considering your own needs and taking time for self-care
- Looking after your physical and mental health
- Looking after your spiritual needs
- Taking breaks as needed to avoid burnout
- Focusing on activities you and your loved one can still enjoy together
Supporting Your Loved One & Their Feelings
The more time you take to manage your feelings and care for yourself, the better you’ll be able to support your loved one and their feelings. As your loved one’s awareness of their condition comes and goes, their feelings may ebb and flow.
They may grieve deeply for the loss of their relationships, skills, memories, and independence. They will likely be very worried about the future, and will be anxious about what will happen to them, and how their disease will affect their loved ones. They may start to feel isolated, depressed, and overwhelmed.
You can support your loved one and their feelings by:
- Giving them the time and space to express how they’re feeling
- Reassuring them that their feelings are valid and that you hear and see them
- Finding ways to support them and helping them continue to take part in activities and hobbies they enjoy
- Looking into using assistive technology to support them as their disease progresses
- Talking to your loved one about their spiritual beliefs and needs
- Arranging for them to join a support group or talk to a professional if they are receptive to the idea
Where to Turn for Support
You can find local programs, agencies, and resources to support you and your loved one through their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs and support services.
They can connect you with peers and professionals who can help you and your loved one make plans, find in-home care or Alzheimer’s care, prepare for the future, and find ways to make life fulfilling and rewarding in spite of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
You can also look into local support groups, educational programs, and services in your area. You and your loved one should also look for online support and resources, including tools that can help you navigate the disease and prepare for the future.
Understanding When Your Loved One Needs Additional Care
As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, there may come a time when you can’t care for them alone any longer. You should be aware of the signs that your loved one needs in-home care or Alzheimer’s care services.
You should also understand when it’s time to help your loved one transition into an assisted living Alzheimer’s care facility. You may need to consider assisted living placement if your loved one:
- Frequently wanders, takes long walks alone, or gets lost and their health and safety are in danger
- Can’t remember to take their medication or is at risk of taking too much in one day
- Can no longer prepare meals or remember to eat
- Is at risk of falling and/or is having mobility issues
- Is no longer taking care of their personal hygiene like bathing, grooming, and dressing appropriately
- Has injuries that they can’t explain
- Is becoming malnourished and/or losing weight
- Is experiencing severe or frequent personality changes
- Has become a danger to themselves or others
- Is acting out violently or aggressively
- Is living in unsafe conditions
- Is lonely, isolated, or depressed
- Can’t take care of their pets
Learn More About Alzheimer’s Care in Tucson, AZ
If you’re interested in learning more about our Alzheimer’s care services in Tucson, Phoenix, and the surrounding areas, call us today at Placita In Home Care. Our team of experienced, highly trained and skilled, compassionate in-home caregivers can offer you respite from your caregiving duties and help your loved one manage the tasks of daily living.
We offer companionship, memory care services, social and mental stimulation, and assistance with household tasks. We can help your loved one with bathing, grooming, dressing, meal preparation, medication management, and light housekeeping. We will work closely with you to manage your loved one’s health and safety and reduce their risk of isolation and depression.
We also offer assisted living placement services and can help you find a safe, comfortable assisted living facility that offers Alzheimer’s care. To schedule a consultation for in-home care or Alzheimer’s care in the Tucson or Phoenix metro area, call us today or fill out our contact form online.