How to deal with the loss of a spouse when the partner has dementia?


My 93 year old grandparents have been married for 72 years. A couple of years ago my grandmothers health started to decline and she has moderate dementia. My grandfather had been in excellent health. my grandfather was killed in a car accident last month. My grandma's whole world revolved around him. She has started saying that she thinks Grandpa left her - like packed up his stuff and abandoned her - possibly for another woman. Normally when grandma slips into her "alternate realities", we just meet her where she is and let it go. But this delusion is hurting her - breaking her heart. We have tried gently reminding her that he was killed - and she'll just say "I just can't realize that." does anyone have any suggestions how we should approach this issue when she brings it up?

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Hi Jacksmom,
This is so sad. You have the right idea that with most things it's best to just meet her where she is. But you can't 'agree' that he just left her.
I know what you are coping with. My mom had moderate dementia when my dad died. I had to tell her every day that he was gone, and then she'd say, "I can't believe he's gone." At least she didn't think he deserted her. But it was heartbreaking. She died within five months and I believe that was because she gave up. This is not uncommon.
NancyH had some good suggestions about talking about the funeral and saying that we "had him for a long time." I'd go that route and then maybe show her old photos of the good times. Help her reminisce unless that upsets her. She may enjoy sinking back into that time of their lives. If not, distraction is the probably the best you can do.
Take care of yourself. This is really a emotional time for all of you.
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Boy that's a tough one isn't it? It seems like a no win situation, either way grandma is gonna get hurt. I guess if it were my grandma and she'd bring it up, I'd just say 'we had a real nice funeral for grandpa, I miss him lots' or something like that. Maybe talk about the good old days and the fun things you remember about him. With my mother-in-law and her dementia, after awhile when information becomes old information, she'll start to remember it (kinda) it's an awful thing losing your memory. Just ease her back into reality, is what I'd do. I'm sorry about your grandpa, but you had him for a LONG time right? That in itself if wonderful. I miss my grandparents still, and it's been 20 years. (sigh)
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Thank both of you for your wonderful and helpful answers!!! You both had great ideas and I appreciate you taking the time to respond more than I could ever say. We will definitely start implementing those ideas ASAP. I am so glad I found this great site. May God bless both of you! Thank you!!!!!
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