Remembering Queen Elizabeth II – Coping with grief

Our care team and residents have been remembering and honouring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II over the past couple of weeks. Many of our residents were deeply upset on hearing the news and so we have been supporting them through this difficult time.

For many at Crouched Friars, the Queen has been a stable and continuous figure throughout their lives and to find out she has passed has been unsettling. As many of the residents have varying stages of dementia, it’s important to understand how confusing an event like this can be and how we can support with grief.

As part of our memorial, our Activities Coordinator Yvonne spoke to the residents to find out their personal memories of the Queen. They have enjoyed reminiscing and for those with dementia, accessing long term memories is far easier than recalling short term memories.

Margaret B recalled when she received an MBE for the money she raised for charity over the years: “I went to Buckingham Palace to receive my MBE which Prince Charles presented to me as the Queen was out of the country. I will never forget that he asked me if I had any friends left because I kept asking for donations!”

Others we spoke to hadn’t met anyone from the Royal Family, but still recognised the Queen as a significant part of their lives. Bob feels like he actually worked directly for the Queen in some of the roles he has had through his life!

“I worked for the Royal Mail as a telegram boy from the age of 15 to the age of 25. I then went to work as a signal man for the railway service for a few years then went back to working for the Royal Mail…”

And some, such as Sheila B, were lucky enough to have actually met the Queen herself. 

Sheila said: “I had a secretarial job for the Lord Lieutenant of Essex. As a result of that, I was invited to one of the Queen’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace.

“Myself and my husband went together. We met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh too! We had a wonderful day and made lots of memories. I have always been a big fan of the Royal Family.”

At Crouched Friars, we find that having conversations like this builds confidence in our residents and reminds them of precious memories they would struggle to recall otherwise. 

If you are currently caring for someone who has dementia and who is dealing with grief, it can be difficult to know how to support them. The usual coping mechanisms such as talking about their feelings or distracting themselves won’t happen naturally and they may even need reminders about the death.

The way in which people with dementia express their feelings may not seem like a typical expression of grief. They may show it by withdrawing from things they normally involve themselves in, or by becoming overly attached to a random possession.

Identifying what triggers their grief is one of the first steps in helping them through this time. For example, if a specific event, photo, item of clothing or place is triggering them – try and avoid these things in order to reduce distress.

If you would like further information on how to support an elderly person with dementia through times of grief, visit the Alzheimer’s Society.

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