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There can be slow grief associated with dementia – not only for the person diagnosed with the condition, but also for their loved ones.
As dementia is a progressive condition, there are often waves of grief at various stages and each person deals with their grief differently.
With dementia the second leading cause of death of all Australians, many of us will be faced with supporting a loved one through grief or dealing with our own loss.
We sat down with Dementia Australia Family Engagement Counsellor Ken who provided some advice on how best to support someone who is dealing with the grief of dementia.
Varying responses to grief
Ken provided some insight into what happens during a counselling session at Dementia Australia, how people respond to grief differently and what people can do during the grieving process.
“When we talk about a diagnosis of dementia, loss is all encompassing,” said Ken.
“When a client comes in, they are generally dealing with some form of loss, whether that is the person diagnosed with dementia, or a family member/primary carer.
“It can be anticipatory loss, when they are anticipating what is going to happen to a loved one.
“It can also be ambiguous loss, when they are physically seeing the person they’ve been with for many years but cognitively that’s not the same person.
“In every counselling session I’m always aware of individual needs as everyone is different. Firstly, I identify what that person’s loss is and what they are grieving, and from there progress the session.”
Navigating through grief
There are no set rules for grieving however Ken provides some suggestions to help you and your loved ones navigate this difficult time:
- Accept that grief is normal – Grief affects people in different ways. We can’t always assume the person who has lost a loved one will be sad. Feelings of relief, anger and guilt are all extremely common and a normal component of grief. Other feelings may include shock, pain, disbelief, and resentment.
- Understand that grief can be shown in different ways – Ken has experienced clients that have said they’ve never cried and therefore don’t believe they are grieving. However, grief can be shown through behavioural changes, emotional changes and/or physical changes, often to search for a euphoric feeling to recapture happiness.
- Have the courage to share feelings with others and realise you are not alone – Don’t be afraid to let it all out and talk though feelings with friends and family. Feelings can have a domino effect within families, so it is vital to communicate effectively to help support each other.
- Listen empathetically – Let your loved ones know you are listening with care.
- Remember that timelines are individual – When losing a loved one, it can be hard to see a family member jump straight back into their routine. However, it is important to remember that they may be grieving in different ways.
- Become a Dementia Advocate – The Dementia Advocates program provides an opportunity for people living with dementia, as well as carers and former carers of people with dementia, to share their stories, identify current issues and positively effect change. Want to know more? Visit https://www.dementia.org.au/.../dementia-advocates...
Help is available
Whether you are grieving or supporting someone with their grief, it is important to remember you are not alone and there is support available for you.
Dementia Australia offers support, information, education and counselling.
The National Dementia Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted on 1800 100 500.
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