This is a particularly difficult topic. For those of us that have dealt with loved ones being diagnosed with dementia and living through the gradual progress of the condition, sometimes the pain and frustration can be more than words can communicate. Most people, when they hear of the diagnosis of a loved one, go through strong emotions. From loss, grief and anger, you have a right to be going through them all. A person you love will be changing and that change is out of your control. Loving, caring and doing life with someone with a diagnosis of dementia is a complex situation and so you must know that you do not need to do this on your own.
Medical experts in the field encourage anyone who has learned of a loved ones diagnosis to know that whatever they are feeling they have a right to be feeling. These range of emotions, while normal are at the same time confusing, painful and overwhelming. It is so important to know they you do not have to shoulder the burden alone. It doesn’t need to be only yours. Experts suggest, to anyone who is struggling with coming to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis, to seek out support groups, to find a group and situation where they feel safe to share, safe to cry and to be the rawest of themselves as they go along the journey from diagnosis, to caring and seeing the change in their loved one.
Experts from the Alzheimer’s Association state, “It’s normal to feel loss when you care about someone who has Alzheimer’s [/dementia] disease. It’s also normal to feel guilty, abandoned and angry.”
Dementia gradually changes the person that you know and love. Even before the end-of-life stage many feel as if they have lost the person they loved for decades. The process of grieving the loss of your loved one may be intermingled with other stages of grief such as denial, anger, guilt, sadness and acceptance. Having to say goodbye to someone you’ve known and loved for years is something that words don’t have the power to convey. Many experts encourage people to put in safety measures to make sure they have support as they go through this process.
Whatever you are feeling you have a right to be feeling. Sometimes you may feel conflicting emotions such as anger and love. Many people have expressed feeling them at the same time. Know your emotions, while painful and confusing, are healthy and it is helpful to acknowledge they are happening.
Everyone grieves differently. Don’t feel as if you are broken or different if you grieve differently to members in your family or friends. Depending on how close you are to the person diagnosed, how close to their caring regime and for how long will all have an effect on how you grieve. Give yourself the space to grieve as you need to.
Talk with people you trust. Seek out people who are going through the same process. It can be helpful to share with those who understand some of the unspoken things about loving, caring for and mourning a loved one with dementia. There are numerous support groups in every state, find your local one and see if meeting with others helps.
Sometimes we like to retreat from the world when we feel hurt and frustrated, this is a normal reaction. Yet it is so important to be involved in activities that focus on things outside of the place of grief. Go to your favourite weekly concert, go on your favourite walk through the botanical garden. The mind needs reprieve from focussing on the point of pain. Sometimes allowing your mind to be stimulated by things you love can help rejuvenate it to process and heal in the future.
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