When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it affects everyone. It doesn’t only affect the patient but also all members of the family and caregivers. And learning that your loved one has dementia can trigger a range of emotions. These include sorrow, anger, fear, sadness, and frustration. You have heard a lot about what happens to people with dementia. And it’s is hard to imagine that a person you’ve known and loved your whole life will start experiencing these things.
As a family, you will start thinking of decisions to be made, including treatment, living arrangements, care, and finances. During this period, it is common for conflicts to ensue among family members. Existing relationships, challenges, and roles can jeopardize how every member of the family will react to the diagnosis.
Although the grieving process is not the same for everyone, here are some everyday experiences that family members and caregivers pass through:
The first emotion that passes through your mind is denial. You start telling yourself that the person is not ill, and it is just a matter of time before they get better. You convince yourself that the person hasn’t changed at all. Finally, you try to make the forgetful episodes and other occurrences associated with dementia a typical experience.
When faced with such a situation, it is natural to feel angry and frustrated. You will start getting annoyed with the person with dementia for their erratic and unbecoming behavior. You will also feel frustrated by family members who seem not be help out during this period. Resenting the demands of caregivers and feeling abandoned are also other forms of frustrating thoughts that will be crossing your mind.
Once you learn of the diagnosis, you will start thinking of unrealistic things you should have done before. You’ll feel bad living an enjoyable life when you know that the person with dementia can’t. Negative thoughts will start gushing through your brain, wishing that your loved one would pass on and escape the troubled life. Regrets of not establishing a great relationship before the diagnosis will also start eating you inside. Understand that this is a normal part of the grieving process. But your loved one would want you to go on enjoying life, wouldn’t they?
Although dementia is not death, people are often engulfed by a feeling of sorrow. They start withdrawing from social activities and crying frequently. Some people will start avoiding their friends or even start displaying emotions of sorrowfulness openly.
After wallowing in grief and extreme sadness, you’ll start coming to terms with the illness. At this point, learning to live every moment, appreciating life, and understanding that the patient is also grieving will be essential. You will also feel the need to ask help from others and try as much as possible to remain positive.
Grieving When You Are The One Diagnosed
Although the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t present memory or language problems, the period is characterized by various emotions. Patients show signs such as apathy, depression, and withdrawal. The person with dementia will also start experiencing different emotions, including fear, shock, frustration, anger, guilt, anxiety, or sadness. They may also feel stigmatized or labeled since everybody looks at them like they are behaving clumsily.
Practical Advice to Help You Overcome Grief
Let Out Your Feelings
Rather than burying or hiding uncomfortable feelings, allow yourself to feel every emotion. Understand that you are grieving the loss of what should have been. Your hopes and plans for the future may be forever changed. Trying to hide or push feelings will only intensify and prolong the sadness and grief.
Talk to Someone When You Are Grieving
While caring for persons with dementia could be one of your most daunting experiences, sharing your grief can help you recover. Look for a person who’s from outside the family, such as a counselor, a therapist, or a close friend. Joining an Alzheimer’s disease support group can also help you recover. This is because you will be listening to other people who have passed through similar experiences.
Embrace the Grieving Process As Your Own
Everybody grieves differently, and some people require more time to heal than others. The severity of the matter, as well as your history of dealing with difficult situations, should determine how you handle this process. When you feel overwhelmed, make sure you seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.
Knowing what makes you comfortable in times of distress is essential if you are to overcome grief. Whether it is meditation, praying, or taking leisurely strolls, make sure you take time to do what makes you comfortable.
Be Kind to Yourself
Although you may be feeling frustrated, sad, or even start the blame game, you should learn to forgive yourself. Find a balance between being angry and peaceful, happy and sad, and guilty and glad. Exercise patience when dealing with emotions.
Take Care of Yourself
Although you may be going through a challenging moment, it is prudent that you take care of yourself. How are you going to take care of a patient with dementia if you can’t take care of yourself? Keep your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Take time to enjoy what makes you happy and ask for help when you need it.
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