Anticipatory Grief & Alzheimer’s Rollercoaster

older man depressed or grievingAnticipatory grief when caring for a loved one living with a chronic or life-limiting illness, like Alzheimer’s disease, is often very traumatic. While caring for your loved one, you may be faced with a different sense of loss at each stage of the disease. Or just the opposite. Denial can take over. Especially when your loved one is physically healthy and looks like the same ole’ mom or dad. As a parent loses memories or forgets a child’s name, it becomes harder to cope. Through personality and behavior changes, sickness and a deteriorating immune system and finally the passing of your loved one, Alzheimer’s affects each individual differently. The uniqueness of the disease forces caregivers to ride a roller coaster of emotions.

Here are few suggestions to help caregivers understand anticipatory grief when a loved one is living with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Educate yourself on the stages of Alzheimer’s and what you might expect from your loved one. But accept that the unexpected will happen.

  • When wrestling with dark feelings, surround yourself with positive memories and celebrate the good days.

  • Face your feelings and allow the grief to happen. Each person grieves differently. Give yourself permission to get angry or to cry. It is natural to be upset and limiting your emotions often creates additional stress.

  • Talk to someone. Create a support system for yourself. It could be a spouse, sibling, friend, support group or therapist.  Sharing your frustrations as well as your happy memories will help you shoulder cope with this journey.

  • Don’t remove yourself from your favorite activities. Caregivers often become isolated. That can cause depression. So be sure to make and keep a lunch date with friends or catch a movie with your family. It is important to take care of yourself so you can be strong and healthy to care for your loved one.

No one can truly understand your grief and your emotions about an impending loss. But there are those who have been where you are. And others who are facing challenges you are. Lean on them. Comfort each other and celebrate the life of the person you love.

Are you a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease? Do you have any suggestions for coping you could share with others?

St. Charles Community is Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati’s most trusted senior care partner. A faith-based, nonprofit organization, we have served elders in our community for over 50 years.