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Alzheimer's & Dementia: Understanding Caregiver Anticipatory Grief


Because Alzheimer's and dementia change and alter a loved one's personality and cognition caregivers often experience "anticipatory grief." In addition, caregivers can experience hidden loss.

  1. Caregiver grief is a significant cause of burnout or compassion fatigue

  2. Caregiver grief can be hidden

  3. Caregiver grief can be transformed into emotions such as anger, anxiety, guilt, helplessness and blame

  • Grief is unique

  • No two people grieve alike

  • Grief is not linear

  • Grief is not an event, it is a process

  • Grief can be cyclical in nature

  • Grief can be isolating

  • There is no timeline for grief

The most common type of grief families and caregivers experience with loved one's living with Alzheimer's and dementia is called anticipatory grief. Despite the fact that their loved one is physically present, cognitively the loved one is no longer the same person. The caregiver or family member can begin to anticipate the impending loss of their loved one. With Alzheimer's and dementia there are often no formal goodbyes because those suffering from cognitive disorders often lack the ability to communicate or remember. A sense of loss and longing for the familiar seems out of reach.


Anticipatory grief is common and often misunderstood.

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