Caring for someone with dementia can lead to anxiety, stress and feelings of loss. These feelings can often occur even before the person with dementia has died. As the person’s abilities start to change there can be a feeling of loss, sadness and even anger. This is called anticipatory grief. Children may experience this, especially if their relationship with the person changes significantly. They may take on more of a caring role and feel they should behave differently around the person with dementia. They can feel they are losing a family member who was previously involved in caring for them. They may feel that they can’t talk about it and express their emotions through behaviour. Anticipatory grief is normal, but it is not spoken about as much as grief associated with death.
Tips for supporting young people experiencing anticipatory grief
- Make some time to talk about dementia and the changes that occur in the brain. Watching our video “Let’s Talk about Dementia” may help them to better understand dementia
- When talking about the person with dementia, focus on what they can still do, not what they struggle with
- Reassure them that the person still loves them even if they can’t always show it or remember their name
- Spend quality time with their loved one. Taking part in enjoyable and meaningful activities can help them connect