Ambiguous loss is common when a loved one has dementia.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s involve declines in mental functioning.
This can have physical and emotional consequences for the individual with the diagnosis.
Caregivers get a front row seat to their loved one changing.
According to a recent Banner Health article titled “Caregiving and Dementia: Navigating Ambiguous Loss and Grief,” this can lead to overwhelming stress for the caregivers.
Each day, the caregivers are reminded of the toll the disease takes on a person.
Ambiguous loss is a common occurrence when a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
What is ambiguous loss?
This is a description for the grief people experience who are incrementally losing their loved ones to cognitive disease.
Their loved one is physically present, but mentally not the same.
The loss takes place over time and there is no prediction for what will be forgotten or how much the personality will change and when.
Caregivers are left confused and sad as the disease runs its course.
What can those experiencing ambiguous loss do?
They should start by acknowledging their feelings of sadness from the illness.
Grief can present through a variety of emotions including anger, fear, and guilt.
Another step is to understand personal limits.
Caregivers cannot control everything.
Rather, they should focus on the actions they can take and how they can respond to situations.
Ambiguous loss is worse when experienced alone.
Caregivers and family members of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s should stay connected to others.
They will require external support.
Although asking for help can be challenging for some, it is an important step in being able to take care of yourself in the midst of caring for someone else.
Doing so can even help you care better for your loved one who is experiencing a cognitive illness.
Although caregivers may spend much of their time caring for another, it is important for them to find creative outlets and continue living their own lives.
Remember: others have also experienced the emotional turmoil and physical toll of ambiguous loss.
Unfortunately, with our aging population this path is becoming rather well-worn.
Getting involved in a support program can help one feel less alone.
Although taking these steps will not change the harsh reality of losing a loved one to dementia or Azheimer’s, it can help caregivers and family members care recognize and address their feelings of ambiguous loss.
Reference: Banner Health (June 1, 2020) “Caregiving and Dementia: Navigating Ambiguous Loss and Grief”