Tips For During And After Bereavement
Know that readjusting to life following bereavement can be a long process, but that there will come a time when youll be able to move forward. If you feel like youre struggling and unable to reach the point of acceptance, please consider finding professional support to help you find what you need.
For more information about dementia caregiving, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.
Alcohol Or Illicit Drugs
Drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs can impair your memory, both in the short term and long term. From blackouts to an increased risk of dementia years later, these substances can significantly harm your memory, among many other things. Too much alcohol can also cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which if treated immediately, may be able to be partially reversed in some people.
When Should I Ask For Support
Supporting people with dementia at the end of their life requires a team approach. Often, there will be many people involved in the persons care at the end of their life. Good communication and information sharing helps to ensure the person receives the care they need.
If youre unsure about anything or have any concerns seek advice from a colleague, manager or another health care professional.
There may be certain professionals who can advise on specific issues. These may include a GP, district nurses, social workers, other care staff and specialists.
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Poor Air Quality And Allergies
Did you know that older women who live in areas where air pollution is worse are 92% more likely to develop dementia than those who live in areas with cleaner air, according to a 2017 study. The link was the strongest in women who inherited the APOE4 gene and area more susceptible to Alzheimers disease. And, if you look at these results across the general public, that means that air pollution, including high ozone levels, can be responsible for about 21% of dementia cases.
Breathing in tiny particles that float around in dirty air can trigger inflammation throughout the body and brain. Inflammation is one of the triggers that helps push people towards Alzheimers disease and dementia.
The same thing goes with environmental allergies. Inflammation from environmental allergies like dust, mold and pollen, can create brain fog, which over time can cause chronic forgetfulness, memory issues, and slowed responses, leading to dementia.
Seasonal pollen allergies can cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and a foggy-feeling head, which leads to an inability to concentrate, focus and stay alert. They can also cause irritability, and even depression and anxiety.
Most seasonal allergies occur in the spring, summer and fall, but with the warming climate, many seasonal allergies have been extended into longer periods. People often take over the counter antihistamines for seasonal allergies, but for many people, taking allergy medication can actually contribute to dementia!
Choose The Proper Care
Due to the increased risk with dementia and infections, you may want to consider help in caring for your loved one with dementia. Many families want to give their loved one the best but simply cannot do it all on their own.
Dementia requires a watchful eye as it progresses, and the risk is great. Look into our dementia care for an approach that centers on your loved ones best interest.
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What Should I Do
Its a good idea to speak to your GP or another healthcare professional, especially if youre feeling very anxious about your health. They can check for any underlying problems and help you get support, if you need it.
Telling them that you think it could be related to grief can help them to understand what youre experiencing and work out the best way to support you.
Its Not Necessarily Alzheimers
More than 50 conditions can cause or mimic the symptoms of dementia, and a small percentage of dementias are reversible. Two common examples are dementia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid . Getting the right diagnosis is important so that you know what options you have, because symptoms subside when the underlying problem is treated.
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Tightness In The Chest Shortness Of Breath
This is a symptom that can be associated with cardiac issues, so definitely a reason to talk to your doctor. That said, a more generalized sense of tightness or shortness of breath may be the result of anxiety.
Tips: Look into tips for coping with anxiety in grief, as well as some general relaxation approaches like meditation and deep breathing. Breathing techniques can be helpful and calming not just with tightness and shortness of breath, but in many difficult and stressful situations. Lastly, check out our post on coping with grief triggers.
Supporting A Person With Dementia During A Bereavement
There are lots of things to think about when a person close to someone with dementia dies. Read our advice about telling a person with dementia about a death.
Like anyone, a person with dementia may respond to bereavement in a range of ways. However, difficulties with thinking and reasoning may affect how they understand and adapt to the bereavement. This doesnt mean they are unable to experience loss and grief.
If the person who has died was the main carer of the person with dementia, it can also lead to lots of change in the persons life. They may need professional carers for the first time, or have new people around them providing care. In some cases the person may need to move into residential care. They are likely to need lots of support, guidance and assistance to adjust to these changes.
There are other things to think about when a person close to someone with dementia dies. This includes whether to tell the person, or whether they attend the funeral.
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The Human Form Of Mad Cow Disease
As a geriatric psychiatrist, I recognized that Marjories symptoms warranted careful evaluation. Even though she was only in her late 50s, very young for the onset of a dementia, her problem seemed unlike a routine case of depression. Her memory difficulty and her trouble carrying out tasks that had been simple a few months earlier suggested a neurocognitive problem such as delirium or dementia. The careful work of a local neurologist to whom I referred Marjorie led to a sad discovery. Marjorie was suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an infection of the brain that produces rapidly progressive dementia. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, sometimes called the human form of mad cow disease, and is caused by microscopic particles called prions, which are simple and potentially devastating proteins that cause certain host proteins to undergo a destructive change in shape. Although no curative treatment is available for this disorder, recognition of the diagnosis allowed Marjories family to prepare for her death and to ease her final weeks of suffering by providing a palliative and loving environment.
What Is Anticipatory Grief
Anticipatory grief describes the set of complex feelings experienced while anticipating an inevitable death ahead. You are grieving the loss of someone to illness, not to death, although the emotions can be just as intense.
The instant a loved one is diagnosed with dementia you start to grieve. What will my life be like without this person? is a common first thought and fear.
As your loved one changes before your eyes, each loss of ability can feel like a little death. You may grieve the losses of memory, awareness, personality and ability to communicate long before your loved one passes.
You could also mourn the loss of a relationship that brought you companionship, reassurance and a sense of self. For many people the spousal or parent-child relationship is core to ones identity.
The daily grind of caregiving can also cause a loss of friendships with others, as well as lost income, privacy, space and time.
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General Care And Support
If you care for or know someone who is living with dementia, it can make you feel frustrated and helpless. Its important to have people around who take time to build empathy and trust, and help provide a safe and predictable environment. Your emotional and physical support will be a great help to the person when the world seems confusing and hostile.
In some cases, its helpful to make changes to a persons home environment to help them feel less disoriented . Visit Health Victorias website for some ideas on creating ‘dementia-friendly environments’.
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Physical Symptoms Of Grief
Grief is a natural response to losing someone you care about. Its common for grief to produce physical symptoms. This can be frightening if youre not sure whats causing the symptoms.
Here are some of things you might experience:
- a hollow feeling in your stomach
- tightness in your chest or throat
- oversensitivity to noise
- feeling very tired and weak
- a lack of energy
- an increase or decrease in appetite
- finding it hard to sleep or fear of sleeping
- aches and pains.
Some people worry that these symptoms are a sign that they are seriously ill. Whether your symptoms are caused by a physical problem or by grief, they are still real. Its important to get support.
Tina, Dan, Tasneem and Ella share their experiences of grief. They talk about feelings of shock, anger, anxiety and loneliness. You might find that there are some things you can relate to. But you might find that your experience is different and thats OK too.
How To Help A Grieving Person
The most important way to help a grieving person is to be present. You can show your support by simply being there and letting the person know that you want to be there.
Listen with compassion. Make your time together about the grieving person and not about you. Let him talk about his loss and the person who died as many times as he wishes.
There are practical things you can do too. Help with laundry or “cleaning up,” go grocery shopping, look after pets, or suggest going for a walk together.
Holidays and birthdays will be difficult so make a note and offer your friendship on those days with a note, card or visit.
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Grieving Before A Death: Anticipatory Grief And Dementia Caregivers
June is National Alzheimers and Brain Awareness Month. HopeHealth shares guidance for families living with the impact of dementia.
What does it mean if you feel the symptoms of griefsuch as denial, depression, anger, panic and physical ailmentsbut no one has died? Could you still be grieving?
Yes, if youre caring for someone with a life-limiting illness such as dementia.
Many spouses and adult children experience anticipatory grief after a loved one is diagnosed with dementia such as Alzheimers disease, Lewy body dementia or vascular dementia. As director of clinical outreach services at HopeHealth, I have the honor of helping these families find comfort and connecting them with the support they need.
Anticipatory grief is real, and its symptoms can be a heavy burden while caring for a loved one. Ignoring or burying your feelings can lead to unnecessary confusion or guilt.
However, learning to recognize the symptoms of grief can help you cope, prevent burnout and better care for your loved one. The right support system can mean all the difference.
The instant a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you start to grieve.
The Link Between Uti And Dementia In Older Adults
Your elderly loved one with dementia may suddenly start displaying more severe behavioral symptoms of this disease and you may wonder why. There could be a simple reason behind it all. They could have a urinary tract infection, or UTI. This is a very common phenomenon in elderly dementia patients. Even if your loved one hasnt officially been diagnosed with dementia, you may notice that dementia-like symptoms, such as confusion, come on fairly quickly. Often, this can be traced to the development of a UTI. Whether your loved one is being cared for in a nursing home, in home care, or in hospice, you may wonder why this link exists. Lets explain why.
According to Alzheimers.net, if a senior patient already has dementia, a urinary tract infection may cause behavior changes instead of the physical symptoms that may plague a younger person. Whereas most otherwise healthy people display physical symptoms like burning when urinating, elderly patients may not complain of such pain. However, they may start to behave erratically, which is usually what tips off health care providers. If not detected early, infection can lead to serious health problems.
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Be Aware Of Their Eating And Drinking
The person may have lost their appetite or have difficulties swallowing safely. In the last days, the person may stop eating or drinking. This can be very distressing to watch, but it is normal for people approaching the end of life.
You should offer the person food and drink for as long as it is safe and they show an interest. Its important to keep the persons mouth comfortable provide sips of fluids and keep lips moist and clean.
When Should I Speak To A Doctor About Dementia
See your doctor for a full examination if you notice several of these signs:
Its important not to assume someone has dementia based on these symptoms alone. Other treatable conditions such as depression, infections, hormone imbalances and nutritional deficiencies can also cause dementia-like symptoms.
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How Does Dementia Affect The Brain
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain. This damage can be from several different things, such as:
- Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia and it causes plaques and tangles to form in the brain.
- Vascular dementia is caused by problems with blood flow to the brain. This can lead to strokes or mini-strokes.
- Parkinsons disease can cause dementia, but it is not common.
- Lewy body dementia occurs due to abnormal protein deposits in the brain.
- There are many other causes of dementia, including head injuries and infections like HIV or syphilis.
Dementia is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. The damage to the brain causes a persons mental abilities to slowly decline. This can happen over several years or more than a decade.
Reversible Health Conditions That Can Mimic Dementia
If youve ever forgotten where you parked your car, lost your keys in your own house, or walked into a room and forgot why you went there, you are not alone. We all have days like that. But often as we get older, forgetfulness tends to cause more than just temporary anxiety. We sometimes jump to the conclusion that we are getting dementia or have Alzheimers disease.
Dementia and Alzheimers disease are words that strike fear into many of us. Growing older, losing our ability to remember, think, reason, speak, or care for ourselves is not the way we want to view our own aging or that of our loved ones.
There are many forms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers itself does not have a specific test to determine its presence doctors merely rely on a cluster of symptoms to recognize it. Doctors often diagnose dementia as a generalized disorder that affects the brain causing memory loss, confusion, personality changes, and even physical manifestations.
Other symptoms of dementia of various types include:
short-term memory loss loss of sense of direction difficulty recognizing loved ones and familiar faces difficulties walking or moving around
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The Dementia Grief Model
In the Dementia Grief model, grief cycles through three states: separation, liminal, and re-emergence. See for details. Each state is characterized by a specific psychological state and has a dynamic mechanism that propels movement through the grief process. Failure of the dynamic mechanism is hypothesized to inhibit the grief trajectory, adding to the distress of the caregiver. We propose that the dementia grief process is vulnerable to being stalled through a failure of the dynamic mechanisms: acknowledging loss, tolerating difficult feelings, and adapting to the new life circumstance or reality of the loss. The dynamic mechanisms provide a specific focus for future interventions.
Dementia grief states and dynamic mechanisms