Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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From: Dallas
Posts: 262

I'm so sorry for your losses. I'm also sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I thought I had turned off the ability to post new questions because we really don't check the site anymore (our day jobs are so busy we don't check ElderHope hardly ever - which is not respectful to those who are posting expecting replies.)

The psycho-physiological nuances of grief are so far-reaching that those who care for Grievers are rarely surprised by it's impact.

The presence of dementia in the married elderly is especially thorny. There are many different dementia variants. As well, there are psychological components that make it harder to figure out what was/is going on. Often one member of a couple is very "with it" while the spouse appears to be when family comes around but that's because the functioning spouse is "covering" for the "impaired" one. When a functioning spouse dies, the impaired one is devastated, simply devastated. The gaps left by the deceased spouse are so complete, so utterly deep, that the impaired spouse simply can't function. This is very, very common. Family never saw the behaviors that the functioning spouse covered up. A viscous cycle starts. The impaired spouse feels a grief that s/he doesn't completely understand because of the dementia. The inability to maintain daily functions and obligations becomes obvious. They understand they are going underwater emotionally and physically, but they can't regain understanding, functionality, or emotional resilience.

It is rather like kicking the legs out of someone who cannot possibly stand.

Is it dementia? That wouldn't surprise me at all. Many traumas can exacerbate underlying Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). That's our guess. But, nothing can substitute for a thorough physical (including neurological) examination. If it's dementia someone who is very skilled in diagnosing and treating dementia should be engages ASAP. Since there are several kinds of dementia, there might be some opportunity to help, at least in terms of stabilizing decline).

Try not to blame yourself. Instead, try to find out for sure:
1) the real diagnosis: dementia, depression
2) a treatment for the real diagnosis (no guessing). In this scenario, it seems obvious that depression is somewhat present but treating the depression without treating the underlying condition is not a good choice.
3) the neuropsychological origin of her condition. This requires a neuropsych evaluation such as those done by respected Alzheimer's Disease Centers. Vascular dementia may have some treatment options. Alzheimer's Dementia has treatments that (sometimes) slow the disease, but won't stop it.
3) a good plan of care that addresses her plan of care for the future.

I always fear I sound insensitive. I hope I don't. My Mom passed with dementia last summer. She had great care from my sisters, brother, sister-in-law and hospice. Its really hard being in the place where we don't really understand what has happened. I wish you (and her) well.


Posted on 2015/5/17 23:19

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