How do you calm a dementia mother looking for a young child that doesn't exist?

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How do I respond to my mother with dementia when she worries about a teenage daughter that is not home, when in fact I'm her only daughter and I'm 56. I usually tell her that her daughter is sleeping over someone's house but she remembers this night after night and becomes very agitated that her daughter won't come home. How do you calm a dementia mother looking for a child that doesn't exist??

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I'm so sorry for what you are going through, dementia7. I can relate as just a few weeks ago mom called to say the aides had come in to turn off her emergency alert monitor because "the baby was coming." My husband took the call and very calmly walked her through to the reality that there were no babies in the home where she lives and suggested that she'd been dreaming when the aides came in and sometimes it's hard to come out of a dream if you're sleeping deeply. That seemed to calm and reassure her but this stuff happens pretty regularly at this point. If it's not babies coming someone's coming into her room while she's sleeping and eating her candy, breakfast items, etc. Sometimes I can roll with the punches better than other times, and that's probably how you feel when your mother slips into these memories but it's definitely trying. Sending hugs for comfort and hang in there.....you have lots of company from which to draw strength.
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I would provide her the doll and see if she likes it. My cousin loved her dolls, but sadly they disappear from her Memory Care room. They usually turn up eventually, but, I suspect she carries them to other parts of the unit and they get lost. I'm working on getting one with velcro that can be attached to her clothing or wheelchair. Any tips would be appreciated.

I was just informed that my cousin, who has been doing so well in Memory Care for over 2 years is now getting upset and looking for her parents A LOT. I have not witnessed it, but apparently the staff have. They think she has now returned in her mind to a very young child and she wants her mom and dad. She scoots around the Memory Care unit looking for them and cries when she can't find them. I've considered getting a large photo of them on her wall, but, I'm not sure if that would help or aggravate her worry.

She is on meds for depression and anxiety and it has worked quite well until recently. They administer it to her at night and she does fine then, it's in the day that she seems troubled. So, we are having the doctors review her meds.

I certainly can relate Dementia7 with the frustration. My cousin's parents have been deceased for many years, but she no longer knows that and I will not tell her.
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I was thinking of a doll, too. Since the "missing daughter" is a teen the doll would not be a substitute, but it might be a distraction that would appeal to her mothering instinct. If you go this route, present the doll with as little explanation as possible. "I thought you might enjoy this, Mother." Don't try to convince her it is a real baby or tell her she needs to care for it -- take all your cues about it from her.

I bought my mother a doll and she was thrilled. She was pleased to be given such an expensive present. As it turned out, she did not play with it or hug it, etc. but she loved seeing it all dressed up. So it became part of her room decor and we changed the clothes regularly.

There was a man in memory care in my mother's building who carried his doll everywhere, including entertainment and events. It always wore the same simple outfit so I know he didn't like it for its clothes!

I don't think you can predict how someone with dementia will react to a life-size baby doll. They are not inexpensive but at the very least they make a cheerful room decoration.
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Do you think if you brought a life like doll she would accept that as her daughter and care for it.?
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That's a great point, a different type of emotion. That does offer me a bit of comfort thinking in those terms. She's actually already on anti-anxiety meds. This week she is also starting to refer to me as the paid aide but then reverts back to her daughter. Each day offers something new!
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I'm so sorry.

I don't think she will be experiencing exactly the same quality of emotion that we in our right minds would feel if our daughters were "missing." I'm not an expert, but I think this is more an expression of generalised anxiety: her brain knows that all is not right, and latches on to what might be wrong, what might explain her feeling anxious and disoriented.

Not that that makes it okay, of course, but it would be a different type of emotion that she's going through, which I hope is some consolation.

Have you and your mother's doctor considered anti-anxiety medication? I'm not a 'pill for every ill' kind of person, but in this case it might really help take the edge off, perhaps.
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Thank you for your quick response. Yes, the younger daughter is me and has the same name. I have tried showing her pictures of me when I was younger and she will understand for a few minutes and then go back asking for the younger version again. It is so heartbreaking. Also as a mother, I can't imagine the pain she feels not seeing her daughter.
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And your younger self is the missing daughter, yes?

How awful this must be for you. Just awful.

No idea whether this has been tried or would be effective, but do you have a photo gallery or album showing pictures of yourself over time? Then you could sit down with your mother - saying something like "let's check the directory for her ID" - and take her through the timeline until you get to you now.
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