Re: grief in the dementia patient

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From: Dallas
Posts: 262
I was saddened to read about the death of your grandmother. You have our deepest condolences.

The circumstances you describe are enormously hard and painful for all concerned, making the hurt all the worse. It hurts even for us to hear just because we know what families go through in thee kinds of situations.

There are some things that I do not know from your post: Did they still live together; Was she his primary caregiver; What medications is he taking? All of these things figure into your (and his) process of dealing with the loss, recovering from it (as much as possible), and how best to help him in this transition.

For instance, if he lived at home with your mom as the primary caregiver and the person most present with him, he may need additional medications to ease his anxiety (not enough to stone him - we wouldn't want that - but we do want to help ease some of the wide swings of emotion, as he is not able to process those emotions like a normal person would. Indeed, some families feel so obligated to tell the truth to the patient that their loved one died, when it might just be better to compassionately lie. As long as one has told another the truth of a loved one's death, they have met their moral obligation. Those who feel an obligation to continually repeat the fact that the loved one died force the Alzheimer's patient to continually re-process the death - and they aren't really equipped to do so. But, that leads to another question: At what stage is your grand-dad's dementia? For people who are further along in the progress of AD, they will do well with a creative lie. People earlier in the disease process likely will have more difficulty with it though it can still be a helpful tool. If he can be persuaded (?) that she has gone on a little trip, or is in the hospital, will he believe that? It's burdensome on you (as it would be on me for feeling dishonest) but may well be more compassionate in terms of caring for your loved one.

So, we are asking for a little more information from you about the circumstances that he lives in. You should also keep in close touch with the doctor treating his dementia. He should know best how to manage this stressful time. I'm sure that Barb, my wife, will also reply to your post when she gets a chance (likely a couple of days).

Just to be clear, we do not encourage normal people to medicate grief away. That being written, when physiological circumstances arise that complicate grief and risk clinical depression or intractable grief (as I believe may be the case for him), medication may be a necessity as a bridge to recovery. Again, grieving is a necessary process and we must work through our grief. Anti-anxiety medication and tranquilizers may prevent that very necessary process. People with dementia often no longer have the same "equipment" to deal with their grief so they may need specialized help.

We are praying for all of you in this time of profound loss and confusion.


Posted on 2009/2/28 2:02




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