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Mom is 91 with dementia. How to handle grief and questions; will the questions ever stop?

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Handle it honestly. How lucky we are to have the love of our pets, the most unconditional love. And how we grieve at their loss. A Buddhist friend told me "Think wonderful loving thoughts of all you shared, and of the joy, to help her on her journey from you, and to what is ahead". I am an atheist, but I found it so very comforting. Perhaps think of a photo album. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Tears help to wash out the pain.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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The questions never stop when dementia is involved, unfortunately. Perhaps getting another pet would help? Or a stuffed animal that resembles the pet you lost in the meantime may provide comfort, depending how advanced your loved ones dementia is. A baby doll is another recommendation to help provide comfort. Swaddling a baby helps give a loved one renewed purpose and also provides distraction....a big key to help with dementia. Even men have been known to enjoy holding a baby doll.

So sorry for your loss and the compounded grief of having incessant questions to answer.
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lquinn, when one of my elderly cats, "Charlie" had passed on, a co-worker said to me "imagine if you had never met Charlie". What she said made me think and I found my grief disappeared, and I started to have wonderful memories of him and all the crazy stuff he use to do :)
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Shell38314 Dec 1, 2020
FF, that little statement always makes me smile. I remember the first time you posted that statement and I thought about all my crazy little fur babies and it brings a smile to my face. How lucky I am to have known Spooky, Tigger, Bumper, Nina, Poe, Midnight(Peanut), Scooter, Socks, Sam, Moses, Shadow, Birdie and who ever else may come along!❤🐈🦛
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Sorry for your loss. Pets do so much for our well being, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. They really become part of our family and they ask so little from us and yet, give us so much. I don't know what I would do without my little fur babies.

The best way to handle it is by being honest. Up-front and direct with compassion.

Hugs!!!
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If she grieves for the pet then forgets the pet passed away, you could say that the pet is at doggy/kitty daycare.... Tell her what fun the pet has at daycare. (Pet heaven is a form of daycare, so it's not too big a lie.)
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jacobsonbob Dec 7, 2020
Good psychology!
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Dear lquinn,

I'm sorry for your loss. It's so hard losing a loving and loyal and devoted companion.

There is additional supports at this forum specifically for loss of a pet,

https://forums.grieving.com/index.php?/forum/17-loss-of-a-pet/
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Pet loss is the worst.  I know folks who lose a pet and move right along.  I am not one of those people.  I had to put down my handsome Lucas Howler 2 years ago and I can't say his name without crying ….still.  He would get up with me every morning for pets while I made coffee and lay next to me while I read a book.  I miss that companionship.  He is not the first pet I've lost and he won't be the last.  It just takes time.  Unfortunately, a mind with dementia is different and they aren't going to process things the same.  Your mom will eventually forget to ask about her fur baby just like she will forget many other things as she progresses.  Just tell her what will make her smile... oh, he is at the groomers, oh, he is at daycare playing with other little dogs, etc...eventually she won't ask and eventually you won't have to respond.

You are not "lying" to her, you are telling her what she can mentally handle and process.  That is called being compassionate.  You didn't mention the stage your mom is in, but maybe as a previous poster mentioned, handing her a stuffed animal that looks similar to hold onto "just until her pet gets back from the groomer" might satisfy that need.

Take care.
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If the Question is about the dog thst died, stop telling her the dog died because that just makes her re live it and she won't remember and will ask again.

Give her an older lap dog to help her. It will be beneficial to both.

Just put a doggie door in so she doesn't have to let the dog in and out to go to the bathroom.

You could even make it easy for feeding and watering too by buying auto pet food and water dishes where they only have to be refilled once or twice a week

If that's not possiblepossible, give her a lifelike fake dog to hold and pet.
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A much loved pet is worth the grieving. Allow her to grieve, please. When I lost my last elder dog (three in two years) I knew I would foster in future, pet sit, but would not get another animal. The grief was acute for me. A Buddhist friend helped me by telling me to think good thoughts and memories of her to help her on her journey from me. An atheist, I wanted all the "rainbow bridge" stories I could get. After the initial sadness I would occ. in months to come be just blindsided by grief, surprised by it. I guess no other fur person there to take the edge off.
Help her make a scrapbook and celebrate the memories, and let her cry. Let her tears wash out some of the pain. Consider letting friends bring over fur people to help her mourn.
And the questions may go on for some time.
The love of our pets is so unconditional, so comforting in any time of problems. I understand her pain and send her my sympathy. I don't know how severe her dementia is, but consider a soft and floppy doll that looks a little like her pet; tell her that you understand it is no real comfort, but just something to hug.
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This is always a tough one for anyone. I still miss those who have moved on. Many. The more recent ones are harder, as often you might expect them here or there, specific places they might have liked to hang out. The latest for me has been hard - she was with me over 21.5 years. The last 6 were in a different house and she was generally always on the chair next to me here, when on the PC.

For those with dementia, it is even harder, because they often can't remember or refuse to accept it when told the animal has passed (same issue with a LO, even if they passed long ago.) Often we suggest saying they are elsewhere, doing whatever it was they liked doing. For people, that might be shopping, working, fishing, yardwork, gardening, etc. For pets, playing, hunting, sleeping, etc. Using some activity that maybe would bring back an old memory, something silly or sweet the pet did, to try to bring out a smile.

Surrogates might also work. Unclear if this loss is a dog or a cat, but they make some really lifelike ones, robotic or not, that often can substitute for the missing pet. My OB bought a "Joy For All" robotic cat for our mother. She was still in her own place then, with early dementia. She was quite aware it wasn't real, but was still fascinated by it. This video shows how some can benefit from the cat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zLrlDCa2LY

They don't show all that the cat can do, but it sometimes can be a comfort, especially the purring. Real purring is known to have a calming effect on many people, so this might help some with dementia. Up until the last time we "played" with it, she still knew it wasn't real, but was still amused by it. There are several "options" (silver/gray, ginger and tuxedo.) It appears they now also have a kitten and some pups, though I have not seen them in action other than videos online.

If they can't really handle the bigger robotic pets, a plush one might be enough. One resident in mom's place had a small plush pup she brought everywhere, swaddled in a blanket. She would put bits of food down for it, held it over the toilet (yup, and it would tinkle too, so she thought!)

It's worth a try - it might be best to start with a less expensive plush. If they reject that, you can always pass it on to a young child. You can try to upgrade to the robotic one, if you feel they need and can handle the robotic pet.
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