Minimizing Grief for a Surviving Spouse with Dementia
Deciding whether to tell someone who is cognitively impaired that their spouse has died is a serious and often recurring struggle. Dementia and death are sad and challenging enough on their own, but when they coincide, the result can be truly heartbreaking. For someone who has never experienced the challenges of caring for someone with dementia, decisions about telling the truth may seem like a no-brainer. However, as with many dementia-related quandaries, the question and answer are far more complex for those facing this reality.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this painful situation. In all my years of caring for seniors and interacting with other family caregivers, I’ve learned a great deal from my own experiences and others’ caregiving journeys. Keep in mind that the “right” approach depends on a few different factors and will often vary from day to day.
My Experience With Dementia and Grief
My struggle with this dilemma began when my father started receiving hospice care. At this point in my caregiving journey, both my parents had dementia and shared a room in a nursing home. For many years, they had lived in their own private rooms on the same floor, but the end was near for both of them. We felt they needed to be together during this time, and their money was nearly gone from the expense of two nursing home rooms.
At first, I did not want Mom to know that Dad was going on hospice care since I knew she’d immediately think “death.” This correlation is what most people focus on, even though hospice services are a blessing for ailing loved ones and their families. However, I knew this news would be traumatic for Mom, who was already suffering from a great deal of physical pain and the effects of dementia. I wanted to spare her even more anguish.
The hospice staff kindly but firmly rejected my plan. Their chaplain handled…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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