There are 47.5 million people living with dementia; each year there are 7.7 million new cases. People living with advanced stage dementia have an increased need for assistance in self-care, difficulty walking, and difficulty recognizing friends and family, among other things ("Dementia", 2016). Although people with dementia have difficulty recognizing many things that were once familiar to them, they remember the concept of death and know they are going to die (Scott, 2013). It can be difficult and uncomfortable to have these conversations with a loved one. There is substantial evidence that end-of-life conditions may be associated with death, anxiety, and psychological distress (Iverach et al, 2014). Despite the communication challenges presented by patients with dementia, talking openly about death and dying can reduce anxiety (Scott, 2013).
What can I do?
Be present with your loved one as these changes occur
Re-assure them that they won't go through this alone
Incorporate consistency in routine whenever possible
Explain regularly what is going on
Practice self-care; caregiving is tasking, both emotionally and physically
Dementia. (2016, April). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/en/
Iverach, L., Menzies, R.G., & Menzies, R.E. (2014). Death anxiety and its role is psychopathology: Reviewing the status of a transdiagnostic construct. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(7), 580-593. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2014.09.002
Scott, H. (2013). Talking About Death In Dementia. End of Life, 3(3), 1-4. doi:10.1136/eoljnl-03-01.3