Death and Dementia-Do You Tell Someone Their Loved One Has Died?

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Grief

If you’re a dementia caregiver, there is so much that you need to keep in mind so that you don’t inadvertently cause any trouble to the said person. But when it comes to bereavement, your concern becomes even more acute. Death and dementia are difficult to tread around as it is, but when put together, you can find yourself clueless as to how to handle such situations.

Unfortunate events can strike unannounced, and one such case is the death of a loved one. While you are also grappling with this loss, it becomes even harder when you think about how you should break this news to a dementia patient. You might be forced to wonder, should you tell someone with dementia that their loved one has died? What will be the effect of this news? Would they be able to handle it?

This guide will talk about how to handle such a sensitive situation in a manner that will keep the sanity of the person with dementia intact and not cause them any more difficulty.

Should You Tell a Person With Dementia Their Loved One Died?

There is really no one right or wrong answer when it comes to this. You are rightfully concerned about people with dementia and how they would react to and process this news. But is it fair to hide this from them?

The primary concern when telling a dementia patient any bad news, especially the loss of a loved one, is that they would tend to forget it. You will then have to inform them of this again, putting them through the same heartbreak and shock again and again. This consideration also depends on the stage of dementia the person is at. Some patients might take in the news and react much later, while others might hear it and forget it the next day. Therefore, there is really no one-size-fits-all approach here.

But if you ask experts, they reiterate the belief that whether you break the news to them or not depends on the severity of their condition. For this, you might want to consult their doctor or a professional as you may not be equipped for this diagnosis.

How to Break This News?

If the medical expert decides the dementia patient is at a stage where they might be able to at least hear this news, you should tell them, especially in the event that the dementia patient is the deceased person’s spouse. This is mainly because they might not be able to voice their concern, but they would miss their spouse’s face, and this may also deteriorate their condition as they wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on.

If you do decide to tell the dementia patient about the loss of their spouse or child, this is how you should ideally go about it to soften the blow as much as possible.

One Person Should Break the News

It is important to remember that you don’t overwhelm the dementia patient with the news of the death of a loved one.. You don’t want a hoard of people breaking this news. Ideally, one person should break this news. You should appoint a person with whom the dementia patient is already comfortable or familiar.

Choose a Comfortable Spot

The second thing to remember is not to take the dementia patient to an unfamiliar setting. This may throw them off, and their reaction to the news may be more pronounced than it would be if they were in a comfortable spot.

Choose the Right Time To Talk About Death With Someone With Dementia

It is crucial that you choose a time of the day when the person you’re going to break the news to is well-rested, like during the day. Do not choose nighttime when it’s time for them to sleep as they may be up in bed unable to sleep, which may worsen their condition.

Use Clear, Concise Sentences

When you are passing this news, do not use phrases like ‘your husband passed away.’ This may increase their confusion, and they may not be in a position to ask you to repeat what you said. Instead, use clear and concise sentences like ‘your husband has died’ to mitigate chances of bewilderment.

How to Support a Dementia Patient with Grief?

When a person with cognitive impairment hears bad news, the process of grief is more complicated. They may experience hurt, shock, sadness, and even guilt, but they might not be able to communicate this to you. This is why it is crucial that you relay your care and support to them during this very difficult time.

Here are a few tips that you can follow to extend your support to such a person to help them as much as possible.

Communicate with Them

A person with cognitive impairment may experience a lot of things which is why they may refuse to interact or communicate with you at all. They may recede into their shell even more so than usual, but this can ignite feelings of depression. This is why it is important that you communicate with a dementia patient who is going through grief or the loss of a loved one.

Ask them how they are doing and if they want to talk to you about anything at all. This may give them the comfort that someone’s there and willing to listen. It may also encourage them to speak about their feelings if they want to.

Death and Dementia- Don’t Bring Up The Past Unless They Do

Repeated reminders of what has happened will lead the dementia patient to go over the trauma again and again. Refrain from talking about a loved one they have lost unless they seem agitated and want to talk about it. If they start acting out, exercise patience and seek professional help to alleviate their pain.

Final Word

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is painful. But when this happens with a dementia patient, the loss can become worse. This is why it is important to be patient and help them cope with the period of grief.

We Are Here To Help

At Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care we are here to help. We want families to make the best decision for their situation

Furthermore, the staff at Sycamore Creek Ranch is proactive. That means we are not waiting for a problem to arise. Instead, we are actively engaged with each and every resident. And with only 16 residents we can do that!

If you are looking for Memory Care in The Woodlands or Memory  Care in Spring, Texas come for a tour at Sycamore Creek Ranch! See how we can help.

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