Caring for the Caregiver: Emotional Support After a Loved One’s Dementia Diagnosis

By Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

When a parent or spouse can no longer do what they did yesterday, it becomes another transition for the primary caregiver and for the extended family.

These transitions catch us off guard and an overwhelming sense of loss and grief is experienced by the primary care provider.  They often don’t label this as a grief process, but it is about loss – however slow – still has the power to stop us in our tracks.

If you are caring for someone with progressive dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, you most probably have had a similar experience.  I think of a story of a spouse who called me one day in tears and said, “Linda, I thought I had accepted this disease and today my wife could not remember how to get toothpaste out of the tube. I could not even help her; I just had to go into the other room and cry.”

And that is what we need to do with this type of pain – express it, find someone to discuss it with and move on.   What this gentleman said to me a few weeks later is, “I just put the toothpaste on the brush and then she knows what to do and soon I’ll probably have to help her brush as well. And, when that happens, I’ll probably have those same feelings all over again. But, today we are enjoying our backyard and watching the birds at the feeders with great pleasure.”

The answer is yes if you can learn to have your feelings, express them, find a coping mechanism, preserve the dignity of the person with the dementia and then move on to what you can enjoy together to make this a less painful journey.

The moment is all each of us has.  However, we feel pain at little losses as well as big ones and it is essential to do the grief work and not let it eat at your inner soul.

Aging Life Care Professionals can assist spouses and other family members to move through these transitions with grace and empathy – one needs a coach and mentor in order to preserve one’s perspective.

To find an Aging Life Care Professional near you go to the Aging Life Care Association at

About the Author: Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, is an Advanced Professional Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy. You can find her at

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

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