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Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope while Coping with Stress and Grief

ISBN: 978-1-118-00229-2
256 pages
August 2011, Jossey-Bass
Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope while Coping with Stress and Grief (1118002296) cover image


Research-based advice for people who care for someone with dementia

Nearly half of U.S. citizens over the age of 85 are suffering from some kind of dementia and require care. Loving Someone Who Has Dementia is a new kind of caregiving book. It's not about the usual techniques, but about how to manage on-going stress and grief. The book is for caregivers, family members, friends, neighbors as well as educators and professionals—anyone touched by the epidemic of dementia. Dr. Boss helps caregivers find hope in "ambiguous loss"—having a loved one both here and not here, physically present but psychologically absent.

  • Outlines seven guidelines to stay resilient while caring for someone who has dementia
  • Discusses the meaning of relationships with individuals who are cognitively impaired and no longer as they used to be
  • Offers approaches to understand and cope with the emotional strain of care-giving

Boss's book builds on research and clinical experience, yet the material is presented as a conversation. She shows you a way to embrace rather than resist the ambiguity in your relationship with someone who has dementia.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction xv

1 The Ambiguous Loss of Dementia: How

Absence and Presence Coexist 1

2 The Complications of Both Loss

and Grief 21

3 Stress, Coping, and Resiliency 37

4 The Myth of Closure 55

5 The Psychological Family 71

6 Family Rituals, Celebrations, and

Gatherings 91

7 Seven Guidelines for the Journey 109

8 Delicious Ambiguity 137

9 The Good-Enough Relationship 155

Conclusion 167

A Note to Caregivers About Working

with Health Care Professionals 173

Resources 181

Notes 187

About the Author 215

Index 217

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Author Information

Pauline Boss, PhD, is emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota and was visiting professor at Harvard Medical School, 1995–1996, and Hunter School of Social Work, 2004–2005. She is best known for her groundbreaking research as the pioneer theorist and clinical practitioner of stress reduction for people whose loved ones are ambiguously lost.

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Press Release

August 03, 2011


How to deal with the ‘ambiguous loss’ of a loved one

San Francisco, CA – One of the most tragic consequences of dementia is that loved ones are faced with a psychological loss - and not physical one.  The loss created by dementia remains ambiguous and without closure.  Family members become caregivers—full-time, part-time, on-site, or long-distance--and must manage not only the illness, but also quietly carry the emotional burden of watching their loved one’s personality and memory fade away. 

Pauline Boss, author of LOVING SOMEONE WHO HAS DEMENTIA (Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley; August 2011; $18.95; Paper; ISBN: 978-1-118-00229-2), who coined the term ambiguous loss and now applies it to better understand the complexities of a relationship with someone who has dementia.  She shares stories of how real people cope with their profoundly changed relationships and the challenge of grieving loved ones who are still physically present.  

Through such stories, she shows how people can manage the stress and grief of attachments complicated by cognitive impairment. In a conversational style, Boss takes the reader through topics such as the psychological family, delicious ambiguity, and deciding on good-enough relationships.

 A reader told Dr. Boss, a veteran clinician, that her book was like a love letter to caregivers. Indeed, she wrote the book for caregivers--but also for the people around them who could lend a hand when the going gets rough. She writes for everyone touched by the growing epidemic of dementia. She calls for all of us to pay attention because it’s family caregivers who currently save the nation millions of dollars with their quiet and noble work.  

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