Grief and Alzheimer’s: Learning How to Cope

Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s can lead to feelings of grief and loss. 

When a loved one is experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not uncommon to go through feelings and stages of grief and loss. After all, they no longer act like the person you’ve always known them to be, and it’s likely they never will again.

Grief and Alzheimer’s (or grief and dementia) go hand in hand. Though the patient is the one suffering from memory loss, the lives of the loved ones surrounding them are forever changed. You haven’t forgotten the memories you share or the significance your loved one played in your life, and you’ve had to helplessly stand by as they fade into a shell of who they used to be.

Though the feelings of grief and loss during this stage are difficult, you should also know that they’re completely normal—and there are ways to cope with them.

What Does Grief Feel Like?

Most people associate feelings of grief with the passing of a loved one. The person you know and love has been taken away, which can trigger the five stages of grief (denial, anger, guilt, sadness, and acceptance).

The experience is similar when a loved one has Alzheimer’s. The person they used to be is no longer present in sharing conversations or memories with you, nor do they always remember who you are. They repeat themselves, forget details, and struggle to cope with everyday living.

You may find yourself going through the five stages of grief, though not necessarily in a linear fashion. You may even find yourself wavering in and out of different stages over time.

Some of the most common feelings in the five stages of grief include:

  • Attempts to normalize the situation and refusing to accept a loved one as sick
  • Being frustrated with the person’s behavior
  • Resenting your new role as a caregiver
  • Having unrealistic expectations (e.g., I must visit her every day, he won’t forget me, etc.)
  • Feeling overwhelmingly sad

Though feelings of grief for a living loved one are normal, they can also have a negative impact on your life. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings for what they are, then find a path to the final stage of grief—acceptance—so you can gain peace of mind.

How to Cope with Grief for the Living

One of the most important ways to cope with grief is to face your feelings. Allow yourself to grieve so you can begin to heal. It’s okay to feel anger and love for a loved one.

Also, because dementia and Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, keep in mind you may go through the stages of grief more than once. As a loved one’s condition worsens, you may find yourself grieving all over again.

One of the best things you can do during the grieving process is to share your burden. You may have been forced into a caregiving role without feeling prepared, which can fuel feelings of resentment, anger, or helplessness. Using a home health care provider or service that specializes in elderly care can help relieve some of the responsibility so you can properly cope with your feelings.

At Tailored Home Care, we understand that providing senior care for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be an emotional time. Head back to our blog for more health care provider insights that can help you cope with feelings of grief.


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