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My mom is a resident in AL memory care. I lost my dad, who was in a SNF, back in May. Right before my dad passed, my mom stopped eating and remained in the bed for 4 days straight. The memory care DON recommended we put her on hospice. When my dad passed away, the facility recommended we not tell my mom, thinking she would give up all hope. We followed their advice.


Fast forward to 3 months later. My mom is getting up some now, eating some, etc. The past 2 times I have visited her, she has asked about my dad for the first time in many months. Previously she didn’t even remember his name. The facility is still recommending I not tell her he has passed away but to redirect her. She hasn’t asked to go home for many months and today asked me who was taking her home. I don’t know the best way to answer her or how to cope with this. It breaks my heart when I’m already grieving losing my dad.

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"He's not able to visit anymore, remember but he is being well cared for and isn't in any pain, he misses you and sends his love." Not a lie just not the entire hard truth.

When she asks who's taking her home maybe ask "home where Mom"? (maybe) "We didn't need to move you to the hospital this time mom they took care of you right here in your apartment/room this time."
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Reply to Lymie61
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NYDaughterInLaw Aug 31, 2019
Excellent answer!!!
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I’m so sorry for your loss.

I wouldn’t tell your mom about your dad. She’s not going to remember it. She will continue to ask where he is and if you tell her, every time, that he died, she is going to grieve all over again. A therapeutic fib might be in order her, just tell her he wasn’t able to come to today or something.
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Reply to worriedinCali
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Your questions touch my heart, as I experience these issues every day, too. I am so sorry for your loss and that your mom is so lost.

I do agree that telling her will likely hurt her a lot, and she will grieve, at least for a while. And then she'll forget and ask again, probably, where he is.

I know this because my brother died in 2014 -- and Mom was right there when he died. They had lived together more than 40 years, after my father got very ill in the mid-1970s and then died. But, my mother kept asking how Jim was doing -- and so I told her that he had died. She was shocked and hurt that she did not even remember.

But then, a few days later, she forgot. When, she asked about him again, I told her he was doing fine, that he wished he could see her, but that he could not travel. She is satisfied with that.

We have put up pictures of our family -- my brother and sister, and Mom and Dad together many years ago, and pics of family gatherings and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loves these pictures and we can still reminisce with her about her childhood and early years during WW II. But, we try to stick with positive news.

Really, it is up to you. Do what your heart tells you to do.

My motto these days: Be kind, and be brave.
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jacobsonbob Aug 31, 2019
You could also say "Oh, he's about the same"--maybe this would satisfy her. This is what my mother said to her aunt when the latter asked about her sister and brother-in-law (my mother's deceased parents), and the aunt accepted that without further questions.
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I'd spare her the pain that would come each and every time you would have to tell her, because, it would be fresh each time. When people are not able to process the information, there is just no where for it to go. So, to me, there is no point in providing painful info that she would never accept or recall until the next time. Eventually, she may stop asking. I never thought that my LO would stop asking about her parents, but, she did eventually. I'd try to think of something that would make sense, like, he has a cold and didn't come or is at work.
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Reply to Sunnygirl1
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Hurtbabygirl, my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family on the passing of your Dad.

When it comes to your Mom asking to go home, please note for those with Alzheimer's/Dementia, home usually means their childhood home. Your Mom wants to see her parents, and any siblings she may have had.

My own Mom [98] asked to go home, and eventually I learned from clues which home she was talking about, it was the house where she was born and raised along with all her siblings. I had to use "theraputic fibs" any time she ask to go home, to see her parents, or to see her siblings. I just made up excuses that would make sense to my Mom, and it worked, until the next day when she asked again.
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Reply to freqflyer
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You've had a lot of great answers, and as you see, there are several viewpoints on this question. So much depends on how your mom is, and where she is in her journey of needing 'memory care.'

In general, people who can maintain a coherent conversation for more than a few minutes, know what season of the year it is, and recognize family members even when they don't visit often ... can probably be told about the death of a spouse. And probably they should be told, once or perhaps twice. Don't be surprised if it comes as brand new information the second time.

On the one hand, she'll be upset at the loss, but grieving is natural and to some extent necessary (even though painful for others to witness). In addition, the fact that you are grieving the loss of your father will not escape her notice -- even though she might not recognize that what she's witnessing is grief, or see that it's about your dad.

On the other hand, she probably doesn't need to go through the initial shock and pain more than a couple of times.

What has worked best in the facility where I worked and without my hospice patients who have a dementia diagnosis: Don't lie, but don't tell the unvarnished and painful truth either. Ask a question instead.

"What do you think is happening?" or "Where do you think he could be?" are great answers when she asks where he is, or why he hasn't come to see her, or how he's doing in the SNF. Be careful about your tone, though -- not "What do YOU think!?" the way kids ask each other when they want to make the other kid feel bad. But more like 'hmm, I don't know for sure, what sounds likely to you?'

Sometimes the person with Alzheimers or another dementia will surprise us. "Oh, he's probably dead and I just didn't remember" was an answer one lady gave often, right after saying something like "I can't imagine why my husband hasn't come to see me."

Remember, too, that in your own grieving process you may not be able to be as clear about your mom as you are used to being. Give both of you some slack and don't worry too much about getting this 'right.'

Love and hugs if you want them.

--Maggie
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RedVanAnnie Sep 1, 2019
Asking questions like "Where do you think he could be?" sounds like a great idea. Mom's answers to questions might reveal she has more idea what's going on than was realized. Or might reveal she has no comprehension at all. But I love the strategy.
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My condolences on the passing of your dad. And on the daily loss of your mom as the disease progresses. It is such a rough time for you. Hugs to you.

When Mom reached the stage of not remembering Dad, it was heart wrenching yet a relief. She was no longer inconsolable about his passing. Then one day out of the blue she asked about him, wondering why he wasn’t with her or she hadn’t seen him. She was crying & asked me if he left her because “of the way I am now”. My heart broke because for the 70+ years they were together they were always “my gal” and “my fella”. I assured her that was not the case, he passed on and now was getting things ready for when she joined him. The relief was instant; she stopped crying & got the most beautiful smile on her face. For the next few years, she remembered less & less about anything. Yet, that stayed with her, giving her comfort. She would point to their wedding picture, saying she would join him when he had everything ready.
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I love Lymie's answer: "He's not able to visit anymore, remember but he is being well cared for and isn't in any pain, he misses you and sends his love."
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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I’m so sorry. It’s heartbreaking to read this. I don’t have experience with anything like this but I still wanted to offer support. Others have given useful advice.

I am glad she is getting around a little and eating a little too.

If AL is saying not to tell her about your dad then I wouldn’t. They spend enough time with her to see her patterns. Are you speaking with her nurse or social worker? I suppose they will keep you informed on her behavior. You can update them too.

I hope you find helpful solutions and you can gain some peace in a difficult situation.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
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I think the best and kindest way is to say something like he is visiting a friend or is out playing golf, etc. It will pass if you say something lightly about where he is, or he is working, whatever. Then redirect. Telling her will either make her horribly upset and do harm or cause total denial or otherwise have a negative effect. Once she has been redirected and given some light answer, she will move onto the next topic. This is normal and will always continue. What you say really isn't sinking in. Do NOT feel guilty or upset - it is the kindest way to tell her. She has no sense of time. I have seen this done time and time again with people and it seems to work. Listen to her experts - they have experience with this.
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