Caregiver Grief

August 17, 2020 | Caregiver Resources

Grief can be experienced in many ways when caring for someone with memory loss. One way grief is experienced is through the change in relationship between the caregiver and individual receiving care. This is especially true if the caregiver is caring for a loved one or close friend. The caregiver may feel sadness that their loved one or friend is no longer able to have the same type of relationship as they previously did.

The individual suffering from memory loss may no longer remember their caregiver's name, even if it is someone they are very close to, such as a family member. Changes in behavior such as anger, changes in personality, and behaviors that are uncharacteristic of the individual may cause frustration and sadness for the caregiver.

Anticipatory grief is experiencing a feeling of loss and sadness while the individual is still living. This is very common in caregivers of individuals with dementia due to the long duration of memory loss and progressive decline in ability to function making it feel that they have already lost their loved one even though they are still physically present.

When care giving becomes too much to handle and the caregiver decides to seek additional help or move their loved one into a residential care facility, they may also feel grief that they have failed by not being able to handle the care needs on their own without seeking outside help.  

It is very important for the caregiver to seek help when navigating their feelings of grief. Joining a support group, seeking support from family and friends, and understanding that these feelings are normal are important steps to take. It is also important to make sure that there are plans in place to get additional help when needed. It can be easy to worry and feel anxious as a caregiver about how care giving tasks will become harder as the individual receiving care declines further, but trying to take the situation one day at a time will help to prevent from feeling hopeless. Even though caring for someone with dementia may bring grief, it can also bring much joy. It may feel like there are many losses, but celebrating each day can remind caregivers that individuals with dementia still have much to offer.

To read more:

"Coping with Caregiver Grief and Alzheimer's Disease-HuffPost

"Easing the Toll of Anticipatory Grief: Advice for Alzheimer's Caregivers-UC Berkeley School of Public Health