7 Warning Signs You Have Alzheimer's Spouse Grief

If you have any of these signs, you may be grieving.  Many people don't realise that what they are suffering is grief when their spouse has Alzheimer's disease. Sometimes it is called "anticipatory grief".  

Are you: 

1.  Feeling tearful but not sure why? 

2. Stressed and overtired?

3. Not sleeping well?

4.  Not eating well? 

5.  Feeling a bit numb, or fearful or anxious? 

6.  Getting confused or forgetful?

7.  Not coping as you used to?

All these and many more can be signs that you are suffering from grief as well as the day to day stress of living with a person with Alzheimer's or dementia.  

Grief and loss can occur when the loved one is still alive, yet their personality and individuality has gone.

Your spouse with dementia or Alzheimer's is gradually changing before your eyes and is becoming more and more dependent. You grieve for the loved one you had, whilst caring for the totally dependent person they have become.

This long, slow loss of a loved one is a painful, difficult time for those coping with their home care.

They are still with you, they have the same smile, they may appear outwardly normal, but the ability to cope alone is gone and they become totally dependent.

Sadly, with all the focus on the loved one with Alzheimer's, the fact that you are suffering grief  for your spouse is often forgotten.

In this video I talk about my experiences with caring for people with Alzheimer's and dementia.  

The pain when your spouse with Alzheimer's no longer recognises the family

The worst time is when the loved one does not recognise their children or partner any more. It is a heart breaking time. Many family members find it too difficult, too upsetting to visit when this happens. This can cause friction in families. It is another time to realise that people grieve in different ways.

There is grief because the person you loved, the personality, has gone. Yet the person is still there. Friends and neighbours don’t realise that the family are grieving, there is not the same support as when someone dies.

The couple's children are also suffering grief. They are gradually losing one parent to dementia, and the other is in a constant state of crisis, coping from day to day, and needs an enormous amount of support. Suddenly the roles are reversed and the children have to support the parents.

The husband who used to do all the DIY, gardening and deal with the household finances becomes like a child who has to be told what to wear and when to eat.

The wife who used to be a great cook and homemaker becomes the child again. She has to be given food to eat, she can’t shop anymore as she comes home with pounds of tomatoes and nothing else.

Morning sunrise

Ways to Find Dementia support

As each crisis hits, family, doctors, psychiatric nurses, social workers, day care centres can all give support. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

There is a lot to organise, and it is important to take care of yourself as well as your partner.

Talk to family and friends about your concerns, and arrange the help you need. Don't try to do it all yourself.

When you are suffering with grief for your spouse with Alzheimer's, you need respite, time for yourself. You may need help to organise your finances or housing arrangements. Day care might need to be put in place. Talk to your doctor or social worker about the support that is available for you.

Accept all offers of help, as you have to look after yourself so that you can keep well and care for your loved one. Spend time with a good friend and have a laugh. Go out and enjoy yourself to have a break. You are doing an amazing job and need all the help you can get.

When home care is no longer possible

When the painful decision comes that it is no longer possible to cope at home and the loved one goes into care, don't feel guilty. Be proud that you and your family have coped for as long as you have. It is not easy. The demands continue though. Daily visits to the care home, combined with the emptiness of suddenly being home alone can take a toll on the one left behind. 

It helps to accept that although your loved one is still there, you are nevertheless suffering a bereavement and grieving for the loss of your partner.

People do not realise that Alzheimer's spouse grief is real even when the loved one is still there

That you are losing your beloved life's partner and instead have a dependent child to wash, dress and feed. You are now a full-time carer as well as having responsibility for the entire household.

Don't be too proud to ask for help, take a break so that you can recharge your batteries. You are now the most important person in the family, so finding time for yourself is essential. See if you can get a short holiday, there may be respite care available in your area, or get a family member to take over the caring for a short period.

Keep up with your friends 

If you feel that some friends have deserted you, get in touch with them again. Some people are simply afraid of psychiatric illness and don't know what to say or do. So they stay away.  It is important for you to learn to ask for help and support.  My book will help you to do that, and help you to realise what an incredible job you are doing.  

To learn more:

"A Healing Hug for Alzheimer's Caregivers: all about caring, grieving and making life better"

My book "A Healing Hug for Alzheimer's Caregivers" contains all the advice you will need to help you cope with your grief and also organise your life and get the outside support which is essential to you. Click here to read the full contents list. 

Related Pages: 

What is the difference between Alzheimer's and Dementia? 

Getting a diagnosis may have been delayed for many years and the knowledge of what is wrong can either come as a shock or a relief. 

Read more about coping with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or dementia

Many may find it difficult to accept something is going wrong, and are unable to ask for help. 

Read a story about one such caregiver who was grieving and in denial of what was happening to his wife. 

To help you cope with your loved one at home – read

Understanding Alzheimer’s behaviour changes

Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Activities for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

The following pages will help you recognise some of the symptoms and accept when it is time to get more help –

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Sundown Syndrome

Pain and Dementia

Alzheimer's Final Stages

Why is Caregiver Grief after Death Such a Shock? 

More Uplifting and Helpful Articles:  

"Is Alzheimer's Always Depressing?  I Think Not" - An Article from the Huffington Post

Read how our guest writer Ankita coped with Losing a Loved one to Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s support groups

Anticipatory grief in the spouses of people with Alzheimer's is very common and often not recognised.  

Alzheimer's support groups can be helpful when you are grieving for your spouse with dementia. It is good to talk to others who are experiencing the same problems and understand what you are going through. Your doctor or day care provider may be able to put you in touch with your nearest groups, or you can search online. 

Find a support group in the USA
Find a support group in the UK

Australian support groups are listed state by state, so do an internet search for “Alzheimer’s support groups, NSW” or whichever state you are in. 

> Alzheimer Spouse Grief

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