My Dad asks me where my deceased Mom and brother are. How do I answer him?

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My 95 yr old dad has cancer and dementia. Sometimes he'll ask me where my mother is, or where my brother is. My mom and brother John died suddenly within 6 months of each other back in 2004. My dad catches me off guard asking me where they are. He usually asks about one at a time. It breaks my heart. I once answered that my mom is in heaven. Of course he forgets. He just asked me where my brother is, and if he too is eating dinner. It's so difficult for me to answer....I'll just say maybe he is, and change the subject. Has anyone else dealt with this issue? It's heartbreaking.

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Your responses are appreciated....and I can so relate. I usually do tell my dad that they are just busy somewhere else, but one day he actually asked me "What would you say if I asked you where your mother was?" This was a very coherent question from a man with dementia, who doesn't know where he is, or who I am. So it was very unusual. He sounded as if he was testing me. I did say In Heaven - in a gentle positive way....but I should probably always say something else. He is in hospice, and I'm his only 24/7 caregiver, and for someone his age and condition, he gives me a run for my money, I tell you. So it's difficult for me to know if he's in his right mind, or not. Dementia is so cruel as it shifts ones brain around.
"Gladimhere"....that's SO funny, but true! damned if ya do, damned if ya don't! :)
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My mom asks daily, probably 10 or 20 times if she is in contact with her mother. Then will also ask about her father. Her dad passed more than 50 years ago, her mom 13 years ago at the age of 101. I tell mom that while they were here that she was in contact with them often. And I also tell her that they would be 114 if they were still alive and people do not live that long.

I have also told her that we will call her tomorrow and sometimes she is ok with that. But a couple of times she will ask "oh they are still alive?" Geez another d**Ned if you do d**Ned if you don't. Sometimes mom becomes absolutely despondent because she thinks she is hearing about their deaths for the first time and wonder why she wasn't told. It seems to go better if I reassure her that she did all she could for them and she was a good daughter.
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Another thing to consider is where the person is in his own timeline. If to your Dad this is 2000 then his wife and son are still alive in his world. Telling him otherwise might be very upsetting and he might not believe you, causing more distress all around. I don't think this applied to either my husband or my mother, but I do know that sometimes persons with dementia, especially Alzheimer's can be in another era as far as their memories go.
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It is indeed a heartbreaking issue.

The first time my husband mentioned seeing his deceased brother it really caught me off guard. I said, "You and Fred were good buddies growing up, weren't you? What kind of mischief did you get up to?" He seemed happy to talk about his brother a little.

The first time my mother came to spend a weekend with me and my sister dropped her off, Ma said, "Why didn't Dad stay?" Oh my! We hadn't had any of this kind of behavior from her before. I said, "He is having a poker weekend with his buddies. You and I are going to have a Girls' Weekend." She was anxious about the change in her surroundings and she wanted the comfort of her husband, apparently. She brought the subject up several times that day and I stuck with my "out with the boys" answer. The next day she was much more relaxed and we even had a little conversation about both being widows!

I don't think it serves any purpose to keep reminding someone with dementia that a loved one is dead. "He is in heaven" MIGHT be appropriate if that would be comforting and fit the person's beliefs.

A few days ago my mom asked why Coy didn't come with me to visit her in the nursing home. (She is on hospice and does have dementia.) I was pleased that she identified me correctly and even got my husband's name right, and I wasn't too surprised she didn't remember he died more than a year ago. I just said, "He couldn't come this time."

There may be situations where you have to state that someone is dead, but most of the time I'd give a plausible, comforting answer and move on to another subject.

Hugs to you, solegiver. This is hard!
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