How do I talk with my mother who has dementia?

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Moms still In the hospital but ech day I grab for the phone I dread what she will say. I know I have to learn to talk on her level but its like she puts me down and blames me for her condition. I sometimes dont even want to call, but guilt gets the best of me. Im trying to find a separate place for her to live cause from hearing stories on here theres no way Id put my kids or husband through this.
I need help on how to handle being with her cause shes not who she used to be and Im scared of her. Please help!!!

Answers 1 to 10 of 25
Hi Stephaniek,

There are two great articles written by Editor’s that were already posted in our community. We thought this might answer your caregiving question.

Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer's at Home


What To Do When a Parent Repeats the Same Things Over and Over

We hope this helps. Please let us know if you need anything else and we look forward to seeing more questions and discussions from you.

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Karie H.
The Team
Top Answer
Stephanie, is your mom actually saying to you' you're to blame for my condition?' or are you reading between the lines? If it's the latter, then stop reading between the lines. With dementia that is NOT the logical thing to do. The person who's brain has been compromised with Alz or dementia isn't being logical anymore, so you have to let many things go that they say. If she's being mean to you, change the subject and talk about things that used to interest her, gotta distract her. If all she has is a phone call from you and not an actual person to talk to, are you sure she even knows who's she talking to? If you're separated by distance, send her a picture of you that she will remember. Her long term memories are most likely still there, but the short term has gone AWOL so that's the way I'd talk to her. I'd talk about things that she remembers, forget the 'now' stuff. And if she gets really abusive on the phone, I'd tell her 'well mom seems like you're not wanting to talk right now, so we'll talk later' or something like that. No use being a martyr and putting yourself through abuse on a constant basis. That's not logical either. Sorry about your mom.
I do try to change subject but when shes had enough she just hangs up. so I give her a day and try again. Guess Ill try and think of happier times. I think she blames me for her being in hospital, due to she says I put her there. She requested to go after attacking me. Its so frustrating to even know who she is at times. Im trying...
That is SO rough, and I am truly sorry that you have to endure this. Just know it IS the disease, and not the mom you love, talking. I have had a lot of success talking with Dementia clients about things which evoke physical good memories. The sight and smell of laundry drying in the wind, the feeling of dipping your toe into water, the smells in the kitchen growing up. If you have memories of her baking cookies, tell her that on the phone. Like "Mom, it smelled SO good in the house when you used to bake chocolate chip cookies." I swear those smell related memories calm them down. In person, my trick is wrapping their hands in very warm wet washcloths, and then doing a hand/forearm massage. I also practice dropping my tone to low, when speaking, and it brings calm. Not quiet, but lower pitch. You say it's frustrating to even know who she is... well - it's frustrating to her, too. Sometimes I tell my clients "I know you're frustrated." they seem to be grateful that somebody actually acknowledges this. Mostly, you just try things until you find that magic that works. I wish you the best. Please take a breath and take good care of YOU.
I called mom yesterday and she was in good spirits. I was suprized she talked to me. We had a 15 minute conversation. Thats the first in a long time. I let her talk about her dream. Wanting her new place and all of us visiting. It was beautiful. Today was sad. Shes confused and sad. But I hold on to the conversation we had and hope for more soon. Thanks
I try to keep upbeat and maybe even not contact mom as much as it seems the closer i am or see her only makes her more agitated.
I know how you feel. This is a very difficult time for you and especially your Mom. I go through the same dread before I pick up the phone, but I realize I am the only person my Mom can truly open up to and feel comfortable venting to. My Mom's mood changes from from day to day just like you are experiencing. with your Mom. Just keep remembering that this is not your Mom like she used to be. This is a horrible disease that has taken over. I like the idea of having a picture of you and the family she can relate to. When I am talking about people I ask my Mom if she knows who I am speaking about. I try and refresh her memory as best I can. I live a long distance from Mom and have my whole adult life, so talking on the phone is how we have always kept in touch. My voice is familiar and somewhat comforting to her. Some days I just let her cry and try and empathize as best I can. I have tried calling at different times of the day when I thought she would be most alert. I space my calls. Currently we are on an every other day routine. She tells me each time I call, not to wait so long between calls.Her short term memory is all but gone. She also gets upset that she can't call me but that is another matter. I wish you luck and I wish I could say it gets better. My Mom has lived in a nursing home for almost a year and has hated every minute of it and blames me for putting her there. Just know you are not alone. Hugs to you and take care of yourself.
You can use that good conversation and keep going back to the same subjects. She won't remember that you just had the same conversation, but the positive feeling you got before will usually come back. My mom and I have pretty much the same conversations now every time I see her, but she seems kind of happy most of the time and I feel good when I leave. I still dread going to see her because I was so used to never knowing what would happen, but for about four months now it's been pretty good. She's been in assisted living for about 1 1/2 years now, and it helps that I like the place and she seems to accept it now. It does get easier, but it's really hard when you're getting it all figured out.
My mom has diabetes, Parkinsons, and is Bi-polar. So when I talk to her I never know if what she tells me is accurate or true. I try not to believe everything she says. Especially when it comes to my sisters saying this about me or that. She told my sister things that I was suppose to do too. My sisters and I have a deal that whenever mom says something about the other one to go and talk to them about it. My sisters are not easy to get along with and believes that mom lies to them. Moms doctor said to her it is the truth. That's how she sees things. So I don't worry about what she says.
I'm so glad for you happier phone experience. Cherish those.

Do you have a more specific diagnosis, as to the type of dementia your mother has? Sometimes that can help you understand what is happening to her and what to expect.

The type of dementia my husband has (LBD) does not usually involve not recognizing familiar people, but he did go through a very brief period early on when he did not recognize our children, etc. One day he was sitting on the couch and as I walked through the living room, he asked politely if I had a moment to talk to him. I sat on the couch with him and he said in a quiet scared voice, "I know this is strange, but I don't know who I am. Do you know?" I don't know how I didn't burst out crying, but in a calm matter-of-fact way I told him that yes, I knew who he was. He was a kind, intelligent man. He had been a successful mechanical engineer before he retired. I was his wife of 30 years, and we had children who loved him. He had a very good mind but it wasn't working quite right at the moment. Even when he didn't know who he was, I knew, and I would always see that he was taken care of and that I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him.

OMG! Can you even imagine sitting on a couch in a place you didn't recognize, wondering who you were? And not knowing if you could trust the people surrounding you? That may be an extreme example, but I think our loved ones with dementia have many disorienting or terrifying lapses in their basic view of the world. The real wonder is that they are not all belligerent and aggressive all the time.

Ruth, the world is a little better place for a few of these hurting souls because of your kindness and understanding.

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