Is it common to experience intense grief when a parent has advanced dementia?

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I thought I was dealing with my mother's advancing dementia as well as could be expected. But this Christmas for the first time she was not at home (she is now in a nursing home) and it seemed to trigger the realization that the holidays as I have known them are over. And I have also found myself experiencing deep grief because the mother I knew is not here anymore. She is alive, but the woman I knew is gone, and the realization feels unbearable.

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Hi Dianne,
What you are experiencing is very, very normal. I'm glad you can recognize your grief. Your life has changed dramatically. You mom has spent the holidays in a nursing home for the first time and couldn't be part of the family Christmas.
You are grieving life as it was. You may even be idealizing the holidays as they were, but that's okay. Not having your mom there is a huge loss and grieving that loss is part of life.
We all grieve differently and at different times. Eventually, you'll likely get so you can treasure the good memories and bear the losses with less grief. But you'll likely have mixed feelings for a long time.
Your mom has the help she needs now and the safety of round the clock care. You've done your best and still are doing your best. Grieve, but don't hang on to any guilt. You'll struggle some but it will gradually become less painful. Take care of yourself, and please come back to check in with us.
I too went thru grief when my mother advanced to end stage Dementia. For me, I knew that it was just a matter of time before I lost her to this disease. I started to feel the loss that my mom was no longer here even though I was with her 24/7. I accepted that one day she be at peace and no longer suffer. When I was putting up moms christmas tree for her this year, I was overwhelmed with emotions. In my heart I knew this would most likely be moms last christmas. A week ago she took a turn for the worst and she went with the Lord on Thursday. She looked so at peace lying there. Yes, the tears came because of the loss. But then I gained a feeling of calmness come over me. The woman she became was my mom but no longer the mother I knew. In May, she progressed from moderate stage to end stage basically overnight. Reality of Dementia hit hard for me. I tried my best to prepare myself for this day. All I could do was make her comfortable and tell her how much I love her. I knew when she was ready to let go she would.

As I have been reflecting over the last 2 1/2 years with mom, I have so many wonderful memories. The days this woman drove me insane are now some funny stories I can share. Those are my memories that will be with me forever.

Just try to be as present for your mom as much as possible, tell her over and over how much you love her. I believe, even in the end of moms life she was "in there" and understood what was going on. Even though her body and mind had failed her. Live in the moment, we don't know what waits us tomorrow.

Take care of your Mama and take care of yourself as well. Everything will be okay.
Diane, oh yes it is so painful to see our parent buried inside this shell on the outside. I am so sorry you are experiencing this, but you are not alone.....hope it helps to know this. The spirit which is the essence of your mother is still there, on this inside, and I believe that at some level she "feels" your love and care for her. This is something I have come to believe, as I care for my father who has dementia. He shows little if any emotion at this point, but when I look deeply into his eyes, I feel a connection.....a validation that my attention means something to him, that it is accomplishing something. God bless you as you care for your mother.
My situation is the same as yours - my mother has been in a Nursing Home for 3 weeks and she has advanced dementia. The dementia came on very quickly after a spell in hospital with low sodium levels. Myself, daughters and grandkids went to see her on Christmas Day and it was heartbreaking to see her like this. I was passing her the presents and she just looked blank - we had to open them for her. Once a very chatty person, always laughing, it's hard to believe now how this awful disease makes them. You'll have to remember it's not your fault and just remember the happy times you all had together. It makes it worse that they are still here. God bless you.
Thank you so much for your helpful answers. It is good to know I am not the only one who has experienced this. Part of what is so hard is that I am single, and my sister is also single. We were the only ones here for our usual "family Christmas." Even though in the past years Mom would drive me nuts with her perfectionism during the holidays, yet now in a way I would give anything to have that back, as stressful as it was because the big empty hole left without her here is so painful for my sister and me. Christmas, with all the focus on family and traditions, seems to really amplify and bring out strong feelings. Also, this was the first time my sister has seen my mom in a year and she is really having a hard time seeing how fast Mom has gone downhill. Sue, you're right--our situations are very similar. Mom's dementia was slowly progressing, but when she fell and broke her ankle and had to have surgery, requiring rehab, the dementia escalated super fast.
Dianne I spoke to the nurse at the Nursing Home where my mother is living, and she said dementia does escalate very quickly after any injury or trauma. It's like our roles are reversed. Mother is like the child. I'm going to see her later today and I know there'll be no conversation on her part. I end up chatting to all the other elderly residents. I feel so guilty as well that she is living in the Nursing Home but I know (by reading other peoples problems), it's not uncommon to feel like this. Well it 2012 now - I wonder what this year is going to bring for us all. Happy New Year anyway to you all.
Dianne - I don't even know if this thread is still active, but I found it and can relate. My Mom (93) has dementia and got pneumonia in July. After the pneumonia, her dementia escalated to the point where she doesn't know where she lives although she's lived in the same place for 13 years. She cries a lot, and can get very, very angry, and that's so difficult to be around. I'm going to a therapist to learn how to talk with Mom now and find out what I can do for her. I feel like I'm dying too as I've watched her get so much worse so fast. The one hope I have is that things always do change, and one day hopefully I'll only remember only the good times Mom and I have had together. Right now life is quite unbearable, and I'm doing my best to survive myself! Hang in there!!! You are not alone!!!
I get little spurts of grief now and then. My mom is in stage 6 of vascular dementia. Maybe it's Alzheimer's... I don't know... but to me what's the difference anyway. It all ends the same. I take her out a couple of times a week, even if it's just to let her sit in the car while I drive her for ice cream and french fries... things she enjoys. She will say "so many cars" at a stop light. I asked her today if she'd like french fries. She said, "What's a french fry?" - Long gone is my mom who I would laugh so hard with we would have tears running down both our faces snorting to catch our breath. Long gone is the woman who I took for granted would always be there for me. She's right there, but she's drifting away. Not gone yet, but the vacancy in her eyes sometimes frightens the hell out of me. The inevitable is coming. I cringe thinking of her in any pain and I hurt for her when she is talking and begins to say jarbled words instead of real ones. I will always remember my mom as she was when she was healthy and whole; though. I know that much. I will always return to that time when she was my caregiver and protector; my beauty! When I think of her in the future, I will remember who she was; not what this disease made her become.
Myself and my sisters are living this right now. Mom is in a nursing home and receiving 24/7 care it's so heartbreaking for us to see her blank looks not know I do not know how to do the simplest things she's about two and a half years and Her diagnosis of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's we grieve for her the grief the woman we knew it has been very helpful reading your post
So, (to update my May 8th post) I went to court May 9th, only to find out that my Mother had had another stroke on Mother's Day, the day before court, and was in ICU. No one had bothered to tell me. After court, which was a blur due to the shock of the news, I went to the hospital, in spite of the restraining order, and saw her. In her eyes I could see her confusion and surprise, and she could barely speak. I leaned for my my last hug and to tell her I loved her and that she would know the truth in heaven. As she squeezed me as tight as she could, I heard her say over and over in my ear, "I love you, I love you, I love you..." and we hugged. Within minutes my brother showed up from court and began yelling for the nurses to call the police and security. Mom became agitated so I immediately left so as not to continue to cause her stress and so I would not be arrested. Really long story short, in July my brother was given conservatorship incredulously and with no charges ever filed, no evidence of wrongdoing, no trial, nada, the judge made the restraining order against me ever seeing her again, permanent. My beloved Mother passed at the end of August. Thank goodness she didn't know how bad things were. I've being dragged into litigation but cannot afford an attorney, and believe me, even if I could, my brothers attorney is too well connected to the probate court in our county and no one wants to go up against her. I don't know what will happen next, but I am so sad that her life ended as it did and I was not able to be with her on that journey. Thanks for again letting me share my story.

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