LOOK AFTER YOURSELF CARING FOR A RELATIVE WITH DEMENTIA: A SENSE OF ‘LIVING BEREAVEMENT’

As a dementing illness progresses, relatives and, to a lesser extent, friends have to come to terms with the loss of someone they love. Although this process is a slow one, starting with the realization that the sufferer is not the person he or she used to be, and progressing to a loss of companionship and a hundred and one other losses, it is very much akin to the grief and bereavement experienced after someone has died. Although the body is physically still present, the personality goes. This is particularly painful when the sufferer is unable to communicate with, understand, or recognize you. This sense of loss is very difficult to cope with sometimes, and the long-drawn-out grieving process may affect the pattern of bereavement when the sufferer eventually dies. Just as you come to terms with the situation, your relative may deteriorate in another way and you have to adjust all over again.

With a progressive illness like dementia, the grief can get worse as time goes on and very often death is a merciful release from this type of emotional turmoil, just as it is from the physical burdens and the distressful existence of the sufferer. Many people won’t understand what you are going through. We can all relate to the recently bereaved, but this is a situation that is only really understood by others who have experienced it, either first hand or by working closely with those in your position. As for so many of the emotional problems that arise when caring for a person with dementia, the main anchor in coping with the living bereavement process can only be a sharing of the experience with others. There is little to be gained from keeping a stiff upper lip and maintaining a facade of emotional independence.

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Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 4:19 am and is filed under General health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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