grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

Sueh 

none grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Not sure of this subject, but I couldn't find any info anywhere else. My mom died about 8 months ago, my dad is 83, decent health, but his grief is substantial. (they were married 62 yrs.) Recently, I have noticed forgetfulness, also he says he "talks" with my mom, which I understand, I also am a widow, however, he says when he does he doesn't understand why she doesn't talk back. He knows she is gone, this bothers me. any thots?


Posted on 2008/9/22 19:24




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?


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First, Sueh, I'm saddened to learn of your loss. My heart goes out ot you.

I think you have raised a good question, but I fear it may not have an easy answer. When we lose a spouse after a long life together, our entire world is upset. Indeed, Thomas Attig in the book, Relearning the World, exactly describes it so. It may be that your dad's world has been so utterly reshaped that he has little grounding upon which to assess that which is real.

What further complicates matters is that a significant percentage of spouses report seeing their loved one after the death. It is NOT unusual. Nor is it unusual for the spouse to not talk back. Indeed, it is arguable that whatever the source of these apparitions (psychological or paranormal), the point of them is to help the survivor come to terms with the loved one's departure. As a hospice chaplain for twelve years, I encouraged people who had these experiences to explore them, to try and grasp their meaning to them. I would exercise caution, as I'm sure you are, in minimizing these experiences. In dreams or waking life - or both - he's just trying to process his loss.

One other note is this: Loss affects memory, digestion, immunity, capacity to enjoy life, awareness of surroundings, sleep, dream life, and truly every other aspect of life. We really are re-learning the world.

Having said all that, there is yet another caveat to the situation as you have presented it. Often, where one spouse has dementia, the other spouse covers for the demented spouse through a unique pattern of interference, practices, etc. that others might not see. Then when the spouse who does not have dementia dies, the behaviors that are common symptoms of dementia become obvious to everyone because mom is no longer there to remind dad that he forgot to put on his pants (and I'm not trying to be funny in the least in saying this). My mom really covered for my recently deceased dad pretty well: None of us realized how well. So, it could be that you're picking up on things that have been there for a while but are only now obvious. Or, not...

In any case, I would not become too alarmed. I would give your Dad time to adapt to what he is going through. If, after several months, he is still going through these experiences, I would take him in for a physical. If he worsens or becomes depressed, I would jump in even sooner. That's all I can think of at the moment. I'll post more as I have other thoughts.

We wish you well.

Mike and Barb Davis


Posted on 2008/9/24 20:44




Sue 

none Re: Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

Thank you for your response. I was home (I live about 2 hours away from Dad), this weekend, noting that Dad, again, was confused. However, he reverts back to "normalcy". He mourns the loss of my mother, and his two sons do nothing to help ie: see him, talk to him, and he says now I have lost my boys. I have talked to both brothers, and they just get angry with me and do less, if that is possible. I encourage Dad to get out, to talk to people, to go to church. He does not want to do these things. He has had a check up at the doctor's office, the doc put him on Xanax.. a small dosage and mg. to help him through this grief. I am concerned about the confusion, and the enormous amount of grief, however, I did lose my husband 7 years ago and I do remember how terrible the grief was. I thank you for your response it was most helpful to me.


Posted on 2008/9/29 16:19




none Re: Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Hi Sue -
Does your Dad live by himself? Does he have any neighbors who can check in on him or maybe just call him periodically to say "hi"? He may become more isolated as time goes by because he really doesn't feel like going out or doing much with other people - which is completely understandable but this scenario then oftentimes leads to more isolation and more problems with health.

Hopefully, the medication will help him through this time. It's important that he does take his meds as he's supposed to so that the medication can be effective. It's just hard, sometimes, for a person in grief to take good care of themselves, such as being sure to eat, take meds, etc. You may just encourage your Dad to be sure that he does take his medication because it's important to you that he does take care of himself. Maybe a pill box that is filled for each day of the week would be a good way to remind him to take his meds each day as well as allow you to easily check that box if he is not!

Also, if his confusion or memory loss becomes worse or you are noticing it more consistently, you may want to take your Dad to a geriatric physician or neurologist to be tested for a dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. If he does have AD, the medications available for AD may help him slightly with memory and focus as well as mood. It's just hard right now to weed through whether it is grief that is causing his cognitive issues or more . . . however, after some time, it may become more obvious to all that your Dad has more than grief affecting him.

I'm sure it's hard to be the only caregiver for your Dad right now and sad that your brothers won't help you help him - unfortunately, this happens all too often in families where one adult child becomes the only caregiver. Maybe your Dad can move closer to where you live to make that commute a little easier for you. Please take care of yourself during this time and let us know how things are coming along with your Dad.
You'll be in our thoughts . . . Barb Davis


Posted on 2008/10/10 8:54




Jean 

none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

My mom is going through the same thing, and I'm not sure she's going to pull out. She's 86 with dementia. Dad "covered" for her pretty well until his recent stroke and our loss of him this past Christmas. I visit weekly with our dog. Just a thought: if you have a pet or have access to one, this is the most joy I see her experience-- having an animal around. Maybe your dad would benefit. Or even if he could take care of a small pet on his own. Not sure if it would work in his circumstances, but old folks do seem to get some comfort from animals.

God bless -- others are going through similar trials! :(


Posted on 2010/2/15 15:13




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Jean:

I was saddened to red about your loss this past Christmas and the heartache of seeing your mother struggle with dementia. I am so glad you visit with your dog. We use dog therapy at my hospital two days a week and its amazing the connections that people - even people with late-stage dementia - can make with a dog. A short article was recently written in our health care system's magazine (though not yet in the mail) about that special connection between dogs and us humans.

Again, we offer you our condolences and prayers for yo and your mom...

Mike Davis


Posted on 2010/2/19 22:18




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?


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I'm new to this forum beginning today. I've been looking on the web for someone with similar experiences to mine, and can so very much relate to some of the stories I've read here.

My Dad died at age 84 in June of 2009. My mother grieved naturally for a year, but right at the one year anniversary of his death, almost to the day, she had her first "episode" of forgetting what had happened to Dad. Since then, for the past 5 months, she will periodically call up one of us (4) brothers and sisters and tell us that she doesn't know where he is, and shouldn't he be coming home? Sometimes she thinks he is in the hospital still, sometimes she simply thinks he is "out of town at a meeting" or just at the store. She is becoming increasingly nervous and scared about the memory lapses.

Mom can't imagine what is happening to her, and feels so guilty each time she "comes out of it" and realizes what she has forgotten, even forgotten his funeral service.

We have taken her to various neurologists and specialists and she is currently on 2 anti-depressants, but nothing seems to be helping so far.

It's such a cruel, cruel thing. Both to her and to us, who have to repeatedly tell her that her beloved soulmate has died. Why is this happening to us? To her?

Any advise is welcome.


Posted on 2010/11/17 12:25




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Dear Suzanne,
I am sorry for the loss of your father and for your mother's current cognitive issues. I wonder about the neurologists and what their diagnosis has been for your mother's state. You say they have prescribed anti-depressants but what about her memory issues? Grief can cause memory/cognitive changes but generally, these are temporary . . . especially early in the grieving process. It sounds as though your mother has become more confused in the year since your father's passing.

I would suggest a second opinion to see if your mother is having cognitive decline relating to Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia - in either case, several medications may be appropriate to help with her focus, attention, mood and some memory issues - such as Aricept and Namenda.

Perhaps talk with her doctors to get more information about her diagnosis and whether a medication to address her cognitive issues would be appropriate. Actually, some of the medications for dementia can assist with depressive symptoms too, and maybe her antideprssants can be modified or eliminated -

Please take care and let us know if we can offer some other suggestions . . .

Most sincerely,
Barb Davis


Posted on 2010/11/18 14:59




john 

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This is happening to my father now. He is 84, and it has been over two years since my mother died. Dad has moved in with us and is surrounded by people who love him, and the dogs, who he really enjoys. However, he has lost massive amounts of weight, is listless, and although not cognitively impaired, has had episodes of the type you described.

Obviously, he has been to a number of doctors and a few hospital stays. He has been pronounced healthy. There is nothing physically wrong with him. They wanted to put a tube in him to feed him, but I refused citing many articles and studies that determine there is no clinical evidence to support any improvement using a feeding tube. in fact, there is evidence to the contrary!

The point is, doctors have been geared to give a general DX of "old age," and simply are clueless. Hospitals are worse, since the effect of being in a strange environment usually provides for the onset of "Sundowner's," an increase in the demented/delusional state.

I am afraid my father simply cannot get over the loss of my mom and is actually willing himself to die. He has that right. In the meantime, unless he becomes a danger to himself or us, he will stay here and be surrounded by love and care. There is, sadly, no cure for a broken heart.

I wish you the very best.


Posted on 2011/10/11 14:43




susan 

none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

I just lost my husband unexpectedly 12/2/2010 and my Dad 21 days later. I still as having a hard time. Is this normal?


Posted on 2012/4/2 17:49




Rona 

none Re: my dad's grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

Hi, my Mother died a year ago. I am the eldest, a daughter,and therefore the main child (of 6) who has helped or cared for my parents for the last 40+ years. My parent's marriage was supremely dysfunctional, which I discerned as a 6-year-old child (but didn't know the word for it then). My dad was always jealous that my Mother & I had a closeness. I cared for her for the last couple of weeks of her life & death(cancer), moving in to their home for the last 8 days and working with Hospice, etc. My dad has had NO grief counseling of any kind, sits in his chair listening to horribly-depressing western music and "dwelling". He is CONVINCED that I have stolen my Mother's wedding rings, other jewelry, as well as paintings, etc. He tells me "You know, I talk to your Mom!", as if it will make me tell him the 'truth' about where her wedding rings are. None of this is true, of course, but I have felt frightened of the tone he takes with me over the phone. We live an hour apart. My husband is tired of it, and can't understand why it still bothers me. My children are bewildered and have lost respect for their grandfather, while missing him at the same time. My dad has told ANYONE who will listen to him that I have done these things. I have spoken with at least 3 people from their small town who are concerned about his behavior, one telling me: "We (my Mother's friends) are SO DISGUSTED with the way he has treated you and that he thinks this of you!!! JUST FORGET ABOUT HIM!!!" They have told me this can affect my family, and it has :( and that I need to just attend to my family and detach from him. One told me she thinks he has gone 'crazy'. They have told me that OF COURSE they do not believe these claims he has against me; I am the ONLY child who did anything for our Mother as she was dying. One friend's husband's owns a new & used gun shop in my dad's town and told me how my brother took my dad there to sell or pawn a gun---she seemed a little bit concerned or confused about the behavior. My eldest daughter mentioned today that her friend's father has 6 types of dementia and thinks his wife is cheating on him and that his daughters are all against him (WHAT THE HECK????) Can this be what is happening to my dad? I feel almost an evil feeling coming from him. He used trickery and deception to get me to go up to see him in Sept. 2011, 4 months after my Mom died so he could scream at me for an hour, accusing me of a ROSTER of things I haven't done. He tried again in December to get me to go up there but my husband got on the phone and told him he is not allowing me to go up there. My sister also advised me to stay away. Now, he is calling me again, using a creepy voice, then a soft voice, and wants my husband to 'bring me up there.' I know I sound paranoid, but what is the old joke: "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't against me." Can you tell me what I can advise my siblings to do at this point - they all blame me for his mental decline and I refuse to go to his house again, lest I get accused of more things. HELP!!!!!!! Rona


Posted on 2012/5/1 19:06




EEL 

none Re: my dad's grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

Hi Rona,

It's sad to hear what is happening to you and to all that have posted. Pray. Pray for strength, peace, comprehension and love and that the Holy Spirit be with your Dad and with you. Pray for him every single day. The Lord is with you and with all of your family. My prayer today is for you.

May the Lord enlighten your heart and mind. May He fill you with his love, guidance and peace. May he give you a solution to all those problems you are having with your loved ones. In the name of Jesus Christ! AMEN.

God has seen all the trouble you are going through and you are not alone. Even though it might feel like it but you are not. God bless you, your family and especially your DAD!

EEL


Posted on 2012/5/8 21:01




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Hi Susan,
I am so very sorry for the loss of your husband and then your father. You asked if is normal to still be having a hard time coping with their deaths after 2 years.

I can only imagine that I and many others would still be dealing with grieving feelings years after the death of 2 close family members. Especially hard is that you say your husband's death was unexpected which makes the grieving process even more complicated.

I'm not sure how "hard" this time has been for you but if coping with your losses is still very painful, if it is keeping you from doing some activities that you would like to do if you didn't feel this badly, I might suggest you set up a visit with a grief counselor and/or a grief support group. You may want to call a Hospice in your community to get some names and referrals. All hospices should offer their own grief support group that would be open to others in the community. I am sure that your very first visit to a counselor or a group will let you know that after 2 years it can be normal to be still grieving. They can offer suggestions on how you might be able to cope with your grief in some ways that will help you over the next years.

Most importantly, please know that we all grieve in our own ways for our own reasons and that each person's grief is unique - what might be "normal" for one person might not be that for another. So, please seek some help with this if you can and also please know how very sad I am for your losses.

Please let us know if you need any other suggestions or information, Susan.

Please take care,
Barb - 4hope


Posted on 2012/5/21 13:54




none Re: my dad's grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Hi, Rona:

I just wanted to take the time to respond. I think Eel was very affirming of you. That is what I want to communicate to you as well.

But first, I guess I want to share some information with you that I hope will be of help. There's no way that anyone can make a diagnosis of your Dad's condition without seeing him: Indeed, even with great specialists, the nature of a dementia is not 100% certain (Barb - my better half can correct me if she wants, and she would be right). Nonetheless, as you have described things, it's worth suspecting that a memory disorder might be affecting your Dad: The wide behavior swings, the aggressive stance, the suspicions. Often, one spouse is the normal one, and prevents the other spouses erratic behavior from being so obvious. When the more balanced spouse dies, the remaining one's mental illness is much more obvious and much worse. This doesn't even take into consideration the impact of bereavement on a spouse, a factor that has the potential to absolutely drive a surviving spouse into significant neurological and cardiovascular changes. So, your concerns on that count are completely justified. In your visits to your Dad, it's probably worth being aware of your presence and safety.

As to your experience of grief while trying to care for your Dad, I cannot imagine the isolation, self-doubt, sorrow and judgement that I imagine you feel. On one hand, due to the care you are fostering on your father, as well as your day to day life, there has been no time to do self-care. So, it seems to me that the first order of business is for you to be kind to yourself, gentle, and invite yourself to be mindful about the realities of the situation: There's not a lot of support at the moment; You haven't had time to grieve your Mom's loss; for whatever reason, quite possibly serious illness, you cannot have a meaningful relationship with him.

Second, I would encourage you to arrange some kind of evaluation for your Dad (With a qualified specialist, quite possibly a teaching hospital like UT Southwestern). If he is unwilling to allow you to do this process - and, as I suspect, his home conditions are not conducive, then for his safety - you may have to call Adult Protective Services. Given what I imagine is his mental state, he won't be able to appreciate your motives anyway. And, perhaps, with some help, he'll come to a better place to appreciate what you've attempted to do for him, and your Mom.

Those are my guesses any way.

Lot's of prayers and good wishes.

Mike and Barb
Founders, ElderHope, LLC


Posted on 2012/6/9 1:54




Cherbean 

none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Hello Everyone,
I am reading all these posts with rabid attention as I am going through this with my father. My mother just died this past August after a very short and very devastating form of brain cancer. If I'm completely honest with my self just before she became ill my father was exhibiting some mild signs of early dementia. I'm talking small things like the name of a restaurant or date of a birthday. However since her death his mental health has declined significantly. I had to move in with him due to paranoia, not eating, and even being there everyday for a few hours to write bills and visit I would not be home for forty-five minutes when my phone would ring because "some man was threatening him through he television" and could I stop back over. All this of course while working full-time and trying to deal with my own grief over the loss of my mom. So, moving in just seemed more sensible. The doctor diagnosed him with"severe grief reaction" and started him on an antidepressant. At least the paranoia is much better, but everything else is a disaster. I am a nurse and work twelve hour night shifts. I get no sleep during the day because of repeated interruptions and nights I'm off he's up and dressed at three am. I gave up living with my significant other and also gave up living across the street from my only child. Let her and him at least have a little normalcy! I am so profoundly depressed. My dad is someone I don't even know anymore. Before my mom got sick they were so active, and at home he washed clothes, shared household chores, etc. He does nothing now but read the newspaper. I do all the wash, write all the bills, he only eats if handed food. Oh and I sleep on the living room floor because its only a two bedroom house so no room for a bed anywhere. I'm so sorry for venting like this. But I do believe the answer is yes-if there was some dementia present before the death of a spouse -no matter how small-it grows exponentially . I wish only the best for everyone on this site and I thank you for the valuable insights I've learned.
Sincerely,
Cher


Posted on 2013/2/7 5:57




none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Cher:

Sorry it took so long to respond. I am not visiting here much anymore as both Barb and myself are swamped, deluged, in our real jobs as researcher and chaplain. Actually, we are planning on closing this site down in the next several weeks and moving it's data somewhere else in a more static form. So, your's is probably the last post we'll see here.

I am so sorry for the loss, pain, and stress that you are going through. AS I have done in other posts from other people, I will try to channel Barb as she is the uber-expert on Alzheimer's. But, I have been around her and AD to know what she would say. I think she would say that in couples one partner will often cover for the dementia-afflicted person so much that the dementia is not obvious. Thus, perhaps your late Mom - rest her soul - protected your Dad, covering for his dementia. When he is no longer there,it is much more obvious than it was before.

But, as you wisely point out, there is also a dynamic in loss and grief that is so all-encompassing that it deeply impacts not only emotions but our physiology. By way of example, I'm sure you've heard of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. Ahh, but you hear of it described another way - Broken Heart Syndrome. In this syndrome or cardiomyopathy, the heart is actually physically remodeled - literally - in response to intense stress. The mechanism for this remodeling is still not understood, though there are some guesses. The heart structure is altered so that it looks like something very familiar to the Japanese - where it was first researched: It looks like an octopus trap also known as a tako-tsubo. Isn't that remarkable???

Anyway, if the heart can be sooooo severely remodeled in grief and stress, can we expect anything less of the brain? Even under the best of circumstances, the loss would have a serious impact. But figuring in the already diminished brain function prior to the loss, the damage would even be greater.

I hope you will not be harsh to yourself. As well, self-care is so important. We as health care providers are great for pushing that but often fail to be very generous to ourselves.

As this site will be going down in the next several weeks,please feel free to do a search for me on google.com. Look for mikethechap


Posted on 2013/3/9 3:50




Petal 

none Re: my dad's grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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EEL - I would love some of those prayers of yours as well.

I am suffering severe grief after the loss of my husband.

We moved to England from Ireland 4 years before he died last year, and I moved from North America to Ireland 20 years prior to that, and have no family - no one anywhere, and England is not the most open or friendly place to be (and we have a small business here that is my profession and provision that we just built so I can't move and it's not a good time to move after his death anyway).

But the long and short of it is that I am very alone and need the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to send someone in HUMAN form, with the Love of Jesus, to bind up m wounds. I miss my husband SO much and can't hardly at all come to terms with my loss of him.

Please add me to your prayers,
- Petal xxoo <><


Posted on 2013/4/30 18:15




Granddaughter 

none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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my grandfather passed away in February 2010. After we began noticing grandma strange behavior. Repeating herself several times. Not being able to hold a conversation, easily distracted. Not cooking meals, no longer gardening, hunting or fishing. Or working in the wood shop. These were all activities she enjoyed in the past. Odd sleeping times. Sleeps in late, naps during the day, and can't sleep at night. Forgets to eat meals, or over eats. Unable to do the checkbook and pay the bills. Forgets to turn off the stove when heating water for coffee. Not measuring the coffee and making mud. Unable to sign her name. Unable to remember her age. Recently she cant remember where she put things and blames others for steeling items. The doctor has said she has dementia. But she doesn't take her meds because they make her dizzy and feel sick. Has anyone else dealt with this, and what should we expect next? Thanks.


Posted on 2013/8/1 22:28




Jenna 

none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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Yes these are sure signs of dementia. Went through the same thing with my mother in law, although my father in law was still alive at the time. She was this way for several years, and my father in law took over doing everything she use to do. She started sleeping, napping a lot and although she had been losing weight the past couple of years, she was losing it faster as she had almost no appetite. She fell out of bed one night and broke her thigh bone. Just as bad as breaking a hip. Came through surgery just fine, and was sent directly to a rehab facility, which was also a long term care facility. Her appetite never improved, and after 2 1/2 months she passed away, looking like someone from the Nazi death camps. It was awful to see her that way. I think people should die with dignity and be allowed to leave this earth when they know there is no hope for any quality of life.


Posted on 2013/12/18 15:09




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