There are creative and effective ways to help family members who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia cope with the loss of their spouse. Remembering that there are different stages and types of dementia, making sure the surviving spouse does not become socially isolated and not rushing other major changes in their lives are among the top expert recommendations.
We are increasingly challenged by the need to communicate difficult information to aging family members with dementia. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as many as 5 million of the 43 million Americans age 65 and older may have Alzheimer’s disease and another 1.8 million people have some other form of dementia and the numbers are rising at alarming rates.
The most effective strategies for helping a loved one with dementia cope with the loss of their spouse include:
1) There are many different stages of dementia. Your loved one’s capacity for understanding, coping, and grieving can be very different depending on their stage of dementia.
2) If your loved one’s response to reminiscing about their spouse is positive, share old photos and memories.
3) Share music that is of the time of their courtship and marriage.
4) Make sure the surviving spouse is not socially isolated.
5) Reassure them there are people who care about them and will care for them.
6) Do not underestimate their ability to understand, at an emotional level, what they cannot express verbally
7) It may make sense for them at some point to move to a facility, or closer to family. But give them time to adapt so there aren’t too many major life changes at once.