My mom with dementia doesn't remember that dad is dead. How do I deal with this?

Asked by

When my brothers or I tell her that he's passed away (which we don't always do...sometimes we just let it go), she gets angry at us that we had the viewing, funeral and reception without her and didn't tell her that he died. She was present at everything. There is no sadness on her part - just anger than we supposedly left her out of everything. She also thinks that the same has happened with her mother, father and brother. How do I deal with this? It's sad for us to have to tell her repeatedly that Dad is gone. Sometimes, if I go along with her delusion that he is still alive (and living elsewhere, according to her), then she catches me in my "lie", later, and says, "But you said that he was at your house", etc., when really I had just gone along with her to avoid an argument, getting her upset, etc. It's horrible. This is just one of many issues/problems that are ongoing with her.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
Please, for your sake and for hers, do not argue with a person who has dementia. They have their own version of reality and you cannot argue or explain or reason them out of it. Trying only results in anger or distress, as you have found out through experience.

Why is it important for her to know that her husband died in June? If she asks about him a suitable reply is something along the lines of "he couldn't come visit today, but you know he loves you very much." Same with her mother, father, and brother. She does not remember that they died. She does not remember their funerals, etc. If you say that happened, well then obviously you are either lying or people kept these important events from her. Naturally she is upset!

If you suddenly lost the brain cells that contained the memories around the time of your father's death and you absolutely had no memory of his last days or the final service or the condolence cards from friends, and then someone insisted that your father was dead, how would you feel? How would you react?

I think it helps to understand that the reactions you are seeing are caused by the disease -- by the pathology in her brain -- and not a true reflection of your mother's personality.

Dementia is very, very sad. It was sad to lose your father this year, and now you are losing your mother, one memory at a time. My heart goes out to you.
I did not mean to give the impression that I argue with my mother about my dad being dead. I was wondering what to say to her when she asks me point blank where he is, or where her parents are. Do I make something up or do I tell her the truth? I've tried both, and get a bad reaction either way. If I try to distract her by the changing the subject, she asks me why I'm changing the subject.
Maybe you could ask her where she thinks they might be. When was the last time you saw him or them. Did Dad tell you were he was going? I was going to ask you the same question? My Mom always tells me her Dad was with her today! I was desperately trying to et her to try on sneakers I brought to the NH. Then one day she says My dad was just here... so I said Oh yes "I forgot he said he wants you to try on these sneaker' she says" he told me he was going to by them for me". Funny but she still thinks he bought them for her, she tells me that all the time when I ask her how she likes them. Then again her Father gets all the credit for good stuff.
I think it best if you and your brothers agree on a consistent approach and stick with it.

Personally, I see no point in repeating over and over that these people she loved are dead. If she believed they were dead she wouldn't be asking you where they are. She believes they are alive. I'd go along with that belief myself.

You might say, "hmm, it is 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. Where do you think Gramma (or whomever she has asked about) might be?" or you could say "I haven't talked to them in a while. I don't know where they are right now."

In other words, I'd lie.

I don't know if there is a "right" answer to this question, but I hope that you and your brothers can agree upon an approach and be consistent.
Having just recently experianced the loss of the lady I took care of, her husband has Alz, and the family called his Dr. to see the best approach to this if he asks... to lie... I call it loving lies.... we do not want to hurt them or make them angry over and over again... as has been suggested, make up something that is suitable to the situation... so far S has not asked about M, but we will tell him she had an appt.... she had many of those, so hopefully he will be distracted long enough for us to get him busy with something else.... on some level he did understand when we took him to the funeral home... but at the funeral he showed no feelings at all... could have been on sensory overload from all the people and noise, but our intention is to keep him centered in 'now' as much as possible.... it is a loving thing to do to NOT tell them over and over someone has died... and if she contridicts you, just stick to your story.... or if at all possible let it be for a minute or two and then try to redirect her.... there are no easy answers to this one... but do it with love, what ever you choose.... good luck and we hope you have success with some of the suggestions....
My mom's brother passed away a couple of weeks ago.....Both family and myself have told her repeatedly that he has died and she seemed to understand but was not upset about it. At the funeral, when we were actually in the church in the middle of the funeral service...the light finally came on and she realized her brother was gone. Mom started to cry and said "I didn't know"...I felt so bad for her. Since that time, she sometimes knows he has passed away and other times, she doesn't. I try to be consistent and tell her that he is gone and she doesn't cry and hasn't since the funeral itself but I don't think she remembers most of the time.
My mom is in assisted living and thinks my dad and grandparents are still alive. The people that work there said that when you are honest with them, it makes them grieve all over again. So.....when she asks about my dad or grandparents, I tell her that I've spoken to them and they know where she is and that she's fine......I know how hard it is.....This disease takes out the whole family.......good luck and God bless you!!!!!
I have a suggestion no one else ever puts out there. When they start asking questions you don't want to answer, or questions that really are unanswerable due to the dementia, say "Is that the phone?" and leave the room for a few minutes. There's a fair chance they'll be off to another subject by the time you get back. Unfortunately, I can't use this "trick", as my dad would just demand whoever is on the phone come take him home (despite the fact that he's in the house where he's lived since the mid 70's). I use "What's the dog barking at?" and go outside for a few minutes.
My mother also believes that my father is still alive. It is two years since he died and she has been in assisted living for the past year. This only started a couple months ago and at first when we told her the truth she seemed to believe us. Now she doesn't believe us so we have pretty much given up trying. She thinks he left her and she often calls up crying wanting us to help her get back together with him. It is really breaking my heart and I don't know what to say or do.
I often suggest that care providers compile a list of answers to "frequently asked questions” For example if the person worked outside of the home one reply could be
• You know dad he is always busy working to provide for us. Let’s prepare for lunch.
• Dad is probably off to one of his social meetings/gathering/church functions
• Today is the day he plays golf, or drinks coffee with the boys his friends
• Daddy is out helping uncle job do some yard work, fixing his car etc
Sometimes it’s difficult to think of something right away so having a prepared list takes the thinking part of the response away. Also you only need 3 or 4 replies they are new to our love ones each time we say them.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support