Death is a difficult subject for anyone, and it can be even more difficult for someone with dementia. Depending on the stage of a person's dementia, he or she may have to relive the grief multiple times as he or she forgets and then learns the news again. The person suffering from dementia also might get confused or agitated, sure that something is wrong, but unable to figure out what. Luckily, there are ways that family members can help a person with dementia grieve and accept a loss.
Breaking the News
Tell the person with dementia as soon as possible about the death. Use short and simple sentences, and be honest. It won't do your loved one any good to lie and tell them their dead loved one is at the store. Be prepared to deliver the news multiple times and deal with fresh outpourings of grief.
At the Funeral
Some families choose to not bring a grieving person with dementia to a funeral at all; however, if your family does choose to allow that family member to attend the funeral, there are a few things to keep in mind to make it go more smoothly. Talk to the funeral service director about a small role the family member with dementia can take on. Choosing pictures or music for the service are good activities. It also is a good idea to ask the funeral service director to recommend someone to be assigned to the person with dementia during the service. This can be an employee of the funeral home, a family member or another caregiver. This person's sole role should be to take care of the person with dementia and remove him or her from the service if it agitates him or her or causes undue upset.
After the Funeral
Help your loved one accept the death by talking frequently about the dead person in the past tense. Talk about happy memories of the person who died. Both of these practices will remind your loved one with dementia of the death. It also is a good idea to look at the routine of the person with dementia. If the person who died fulfilled an important role in your loved one's day, figure out how to get that role fulfilled another way. Perhaps the person who died always arranged slippers near the bed for the person with dementia or left a glass of water beside his or her bed. If these small details stop happening, the person with dementia can get confused and agitated.