My parent is dying

When the Spouse Left Behind Has Dementia…

There are creative and effective ways to help an aging parent, family member, or loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia cope with the loss of their spouse, according to a survey of Aging Life Care Professionals™.  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.


How to Help Loved Ones with Dementia Cope with the Loss of a Spouse

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and the Aging Life Care Association™ (ALCA) is sharing helpful information from ALCA members to help families facing one of the most difficult of these challenges. ALCA polled 288 Aging Life Care Professionals™ from across the country asking them to identify the most effective strategies for helping a loved one with dementia cope with the loss of their spouse.

The top six strategies identified by the aging experts are:

1. Remember 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. (Identified by 96% of survey respondents )

2. If your loved one’s response to reminiscing about their spouse is positive, share old photos and memories. (88 %)

3. Make sure the surviving spouse is not socially isolated. Schedule visitors on a regular basis and help them keep up with any normal social routines they have. (85%)

4. Reassure them there are people who care about them and will care for them. (84%)

5.  Don’t rush big changes. It may make sense for them at some point to move to a facility or closer to family; but, if possible, give them time to adapt so there aren’t too many major life changes at once. (81%)

6. If they choose to be included in mourning rituals for their spouse, make sure there is someone overseeing this so if the situation becomes too stressful they can leave. (78%)

“With the rising rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, families are increasingly confronted with this difficult challenge,” said Emily B. Saltz, MSW, LICSW, CMC . “Our survey shows that knowing your loved one’s stage of dementia and respecting individual differences are key,” added Ms. Saltz.

Many of the Aging Life Care Professionals surveyed expressed strong views about the need for tailoring your response to the individual, both in terms of their stage of dementia and their personality. Some individual comments included:

  • “As each person is unique, each person with dementia is unique. Recognize your loved one’s values, personality and culture.”
  • “There are varying types of dementia, some affecting short term memory more than others and each type has a different appropriate response.”

Other Aging Life Care experts surveyed by ALCA shared additional tips, including:

  • “Do not underestimate their ability to understand, at an emotional level, what they cannot express verbally.”
  • “Take cues from the affected person. If they are not aware or focused on the loss, do not remind or instigate a conversation about the loss.”

To find an Aging Life Care Expert near you, search an online directory of professionals at

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