How to Support a Loved One with Alzheimer’s After Spousal Loss
Seeing a loved one lose a spouse is difficult no matter what. You have your own grief to process, as well as theirs. When the surviving spouse has Alzheimer’s, however, the experience can be much more complicated. Not only do you have to juggle managing grief in the context of memory problems, but you may also have to reevaluate your loved one’s financial, caregiving, and living situations. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate this situation.
Balancing Grief, Honesty, and Compassion
Depending on your loved one’s degree of memory loss, it may be tempting to hide or diminish the truth of their spouse’s passing. For many people, this feels like the more compassionate choice, especially when the alternative could mean exposing them to the loss repeatedly. However, it’s important to tell your loved one their spouse has passed. They deserve the chance to know and to grieve, even if they forget after some time.
Whether you choose to retell them is a trickier decision, but many people find that the repetition is worth it. In some cases, older people hold on through serious illnesses for the sake of their spouse. In many cases, once the loved one understands that their spouse has passed on, they’re able to do so themselves much more peacefully when the time comes.
However, depending on how far your loved one’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, you may decide it’s more compassionate to simply tell them once, or cease telling them after some time. In situations where the patient has an intense reaction every time, it can be kinder to refrain from bringing the spouse up and to find gentle ways to redirect if they notice the absence.
Remember: You know your loved one best, and the choice is yours. It’s unlikely to be a black and white solution – you may find some moments it’s better to redirect, and others may provide opportunities to grieve healthily together.
Your loved one’s dementia will make your grief more complicated as well. Whether you decide to remind them of their loss or not, the moments that they ask can be emotionally difficult for you. Although some times may be easier than others, give yourself space to process the nuanced feelings that do come up.
Going Over the Options
Depending on your family’s arrangement prior to the loss, you may need to help your loved one figure out their living situation. If the spouse who passed was the patient’s primary caregiver, you will need to go over new care options.
Depending on your availability and comfort giving care, you may choose to move in with your loved one, or have them move in with you. Unless you’re a trained medical professional, however, it’s often best to pair this approach with some level of in-home nursing care.
Of course, not all families can provide the level of care needed, in which case it may be best to consider a memory care facility. There are several senior care facilities in Denver designed specifically for people with memory loss. You should expect a program to provide plenty of physically and mentally stimulating activities to keep your loved one healthy.
In Denver, these facilities cost between $1,500 and $17,000 per month. Tour them together so you can learn about each location’s amenities and what levels of care they provide, as well as get a sense of where your loved one is most comfortable. This will allow you to balance the options and make a strong financial decision. During this time, it might be helpful to obtain a power of attorney so you can make decisions for your loved one.
It’s never easy for a senior to lose their spouse, and Alzheimer’s makes the situation that much more complicated. With the right support from you, however, your loved one can get the care and compassion they need to move forward.