Understanding Ambiguous Loss in the Context of Dementia Care: Adult Children’s Perspectives

This study examined the experience of ambiguous loss for family members caring for a person with dementia living in a long-term care facility. Data for this study came from in-depth, active interviews conducted with 38 adult daughters and 23 adult sons caring for a parent with dementia living in a long-term care facility. The stories shared by the adult children revealed that ambiguous loss in the dementia context involves a long, on-going process of several phases including anticipatory loss, progressive loss, and acknowledged loss. The nature of the ambiguity shifts and the experience changes for families as they journey through the ambiguous loss process. Acceptance and avoidance were the two most common coping strategies used in dealing with acknowledged loss.

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