How can I help my relative in a nursing home who believes her deceased husband is still alive?

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Sh believes her husband is in trouble and she can't find him. She calls me from her nursing home phone every 10 minutes pleading for help. Nothing seems to console her. She wants the phone numbers of friends who have been deceased for years so that she can call them for help. She is upset and frightened and I don't know what to do. Should I tell her the truth or play along?

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Tdlgnfs, please accept my condolences on the loss of your beloved mother. It is truly wonderful that you were able to take care of both of your parents at home and you should feel at peace for what you were able to do. If the doctors sent your parents to a transitional care unit in a nursing home from the hospital it is because they felt your parents needed less care than a hospital is set up to provide, but more than can be provided in a home setting. Please don't beat yourself up for trusting the medical opinion. And I can certainly understand that you feel bad that you weren't there when she passed, but you were there for her throughout her illness and your love transcended location. You think she had renal failure and anorexia because she wouldn't eat. But as I understand it, it is the other way around. That is, as a person's bodily functions start shutting down in preparation for death, they are no longer hungry and they don't want food. The final stage of dementia can be very very difficult and so maybe it is a blessing if it isn't dragged out. Death is the inevitable outcome, whether you could coax her to eat one more day or not. Please, please try to mourn your mother without guilt. None of this was your fault. Celebrate the wonderful relationship you had with her -- everyone has a mother but not everyone has the wonderful experience you had with yours. If you continue having guilt about your mother's death, please get some counseling. You deserve to feel your best as you continue to care for your remaining parent.
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my parents both had alzheimers and i kept them home till this may when they both became hospitalized and they were sent to a local nursing home and i planned to bring them home eom they went there around may 2 and she passed the 23rd and didnt make it there in time..i am sick she was alone although she was in a coma i have so many what ifs..had i known id have taken her home i know she died due to her surroundings..death certificate states renal failure and anorexia as she wouldnt eat..i didnt recognize her the last time prior to seeing her prior to her going into the coma and i felt the need for time alone and told her i loved her and she told me back and still knew who i was and she told me all she ever wanted was a nice home and i told her honey you have one but you must eat and told her i'd be back the next day and i didn't make it she was 90 miles away around trip and i was doing business related to them and i blame myself as she slipped in coma one day prior but the day after our talk she ate so good and i feel she gave up as she so counted on me and i am what kept her hanging on and she was my best friend and he remains there in nh and not knowing shes gone kills me but i was advised by his doctor and the supervisor of his ward and i am poa alone and feel so guilty of it all i tried so hard and need financial advice re their estate and need a lawyer in my area/central illinois
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You may be right, Hank4422. If that is the case it wll be a little easier to deal with. The loved one of someone in my local support group sustained delusions for days and weeks at a time, and did remember past conversations about them. However, most people with delusional loved ones reported that they were one-time incidents and quickly forgotten. (They may have other delusions, but a continuing one on the same topic.)
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She probably won't remember 5 minutes after you tell her.
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the above answer is great whatever works-maybe her doc can give her meds to calm her down-but this in not unusal with the elderly their short term memory is gone-so whatever works is what you can do
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Her truth is at least 14 years old. That is her reality and it is unlikely you'll be able to convince her otherwise.

What is her diagnosis? His her doctor aware of these delusions? Is this something new?

What if ... you offered to look up the friends' numbers and take care of it for her? And then an hour later you call her with the good news that her husband is not in trouble. He is off fishing on a remote lake in Canada, or he is on a sensitive assignment for his employer, or his flight back from the convention has been delayed by bad weather but he is safe and warm -- whatever would fit with his past activities. Perhaps this would help her be less upset and frightened. And maybe the delusion would pass. (Maybe the next one would be about a childhood friend.) And maybe she would keep calling asking when he'll be home. ("It won't be yet today, but you can go to sleep knowing that he is not in trouble. Tomorrow will be a better day.")

How is the nursing home handling this?
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