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Understanding Caregiver Grief

Usually we associate grief with the death of a loved one. But one area that often gets overlooked is the sadness and depression that can be associated with caregiving. Sure a parent or spouse may physically be here with us, but if they begin struggling with issues like Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia those same feelings of loss can easily arise.

Florida outlet The Coastal Breeze News offered an interesting snapshot into just how difficult roles like this can be (which makes sense, since that state has such a large population of seniors). With a particular focus on dementia, Breeze writer Shirley Woolaway shared stats and tips for people who are watching their loved ones slip away.

The piece also included info from the Family Caregiver Alliance, which highlighted that the loved ones of those struggling with dementia often experience sadness, depression, anger, guilt, sleeplessness and a multitude of other physical ailments.

“It is important to identify our losses, identify our feelings, and let ourselves grieve the changes that have happened in our lives,” an Alliance rep told the site. “If we can do this, our feelings will less often erupt as angry outbursts…instead they can more easily be expressed as a shared loss of something treasured which family and friends can likely sympathize with leading to deeper communication and stronger relationships with those going through the loss with you.”

We all know how devastating a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s or dementia can be. In truth, the family member you once knew may quickly transform into somebody entirely different. The physical being will still be present, but the conversations and personality you remember will ultimately fade away.

The Alliance addressed this issue too. “When caring for someone over time, we may start to grieve that person long before he dies; we grieve the loss of the person’s former self,” the rep concluded. “Experiencing loss on a daily basis can be just as painful as the loss associated with a death. We may ‘wish it were over,’ or think of our loved one as already gone,’ but are assured these feelings are normal. What anticipatory grief does is prepare us for the inevitable, allow us to make end of life plans, and experience the pain in stages. It may or may not lessen one’s grief when the person dies.”

Suggestions for dealing with these feelings include journaling, physical outlets (such as exercising) and attending support groups. The latter happens to be where inneractions can come in and offer assistance. Grief happens to be one of the larger focal points of our outpatient program, with an emphasis on loss and the stresses of letting go of a family member. If this is an issue that you or someone you know is struggling with, contact our offices today.