The person you care about could have many years of life left, but when you think about their future (and yours) you feel incredibly sad. Many family carers say they feel emotional and tearful quite a lot, which is perfectly understandable.

Here’s what you can do:

Caring for a loved one with dementia is hard enough without feeling you shouldn’t ‘give in’ to your emotions. Whatever you’re currently dealing with, it’s important not to neglect your own feelings and emotions. Whether you’re having a bad day, feeling exhausted or suffering from lack of sleep, a good cry (it’s never described as ‘a bad cry,’ is it?) may be exactly what you need.

Why you might be feeling emotional:

A specific trigger:
Perhaps your loved one said something hurtful or did something completely out of character. Or maybe today’s a special occasion - a family birthday or an anniversary – and they’ve forgotten all about it.

Feeling sad:
Sorrow can creep up unexpectedly. Sometimes you’re able to be positive and cheerful, then suddenly you feel bereft, mourning what you’ve lost and will continue to lose. This is called anticipatory grief and it’s extremely common amongst family carers on the dementia journey.

Feeling sad for others:
You may feel really sad for the person you’re caring for. Putting yourself in their shoes, seeing them struggle to communicate or complete a task they would once have found simple, can be heart-breaking. Watching the impact their dementia is having on other family members (especially children and grandchildren) can also make you feel very sad, particularly when you consider what they are missing out on or have lost.

You’re not sure:
Being unable to shake off a low mood that makes you feel permanently tearful could be a sign of depression, which affects more than 40 per cent of people caring for loved ones with dementia. If you find yourself crying more and more, you might need professional help. See your GP to find out what support is available in your area.

Sadness and tears on the dementia journey: What might happen

Early stage dementia - the initial diagnosis may make you feel extremely emotional. Some family carers cry tears of relief (because at least they know what’s wrong) and others cry tears of sadness. Some are simply numb with shock. For them, the tears come later.

Moderate stage dementia – distressing behaviour can cause family carers to cry tears of frustration and despair, which is often made worse by lack of sleep and a sense of loneliness, because nobody truly understands what you’re going through…

Advanced dementia –even though the person you love is still alive, feelings of grief and loss can really begin to surface in the later stages of dementia, causing a wide range of emotions including intense sadness.

3 reasons to have a good cry

It can reduce stress - research suggests that crying can help to wash chemicals linked to stress out of the body and therefore reduce stress levels. Don’t forget that stress can cause health problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure

It helps to soothe - a scientific study in 2014 revealed that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax

It lifts your spirits – shedding tears releases the ‘feel-good’ hormones oxytocin and endorphins which can also help to ease physical and emotional pain.

AND FINALLY:

  • DON’T bottle it up. Remember, it’s good to cry and many people feel better afterwards. Crying can actually lift your mood and help you deal with pain and loss at every stage of the dementia journey.
  • DON’T feel embarrassed. Crying can sometimes be a signal that you need help. Your tears could prompt other people, who had previously assumed you were doing fine on your own, to think again and offer some much-needed support… which has to be good.