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I lost my beloved father three weeks ago and my 91 year old mother says, she talks to him well actually to his urn that has his picture and sits above the mantle every day. She has been diagnosed with vascular dementia and his death has plunged her to state of grief. She says, she feels his presence all the time it is like a white vapor. Her neurologist's wants to order an MRI to confirm the dementia but we in the family have seen signs of it for the last three months. I tell her that it is good that she talks to her husband / my dear father but for how long

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If she finds comfort in talking to him, so be it. I lost my mother 2 years ago and also talk to mine. Its just nice to think they're around. If its scientifically proven that doesn't happen, it's still ok.
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Three weeks is not enough to grieve when losing a lifetime spouse. It has been 3 yrs and my mom and I both are still grieving the loss of me dad. (she is 78 and I do believe she had a mental break down amount 4weeks later. IMO, the afterlife and spirit world is very real. He probably is there with her and her talking to him is wonderful. She knows he passed away and it is his spirit she is seeing, nothing demented about that. I don't know what other signs you have been seeing but please don't include this as a sign of dementia. I wish my mom could sense dad around (as I know he is). I agree that I would not put her through an MRI right now or maybe ever, until an extreme condition constitutes doing it. After all, you are right, it's just a little longer and they will be dancing together. Why put her through any more stress than necessary?
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My two cents - part of dementia is losing the filtering ability, saying out loud what would be just thoughts for the rest of us, so that might be prompting the discussions with her husband. I understand the desire to know the difference between dementia and grief, because I bet grief ends or lessens eventually and mostly is cured by time. Dementia will continue and progress, and probably needs medical care to help ease the situation. Enjoy your Mom while you can, when you can.
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Your mother may have dementia, but I doubt that talking to her husband's ashes is related to that disease. Many people talk to their loved ones when they visit the graves -- either out loud or silently. I don't think talking in front of the urn of ashes is any different.
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What wonderful and wise answers everyone posted! Perhaps your concern, Katelyn4 is what you need to do if your mom is showing signs of dementia. And really, there is no miracle pill, so you let them be in their world. Trying to point out "realities" and truths does little good (not that I don't occasionally do it anyway). Validating her feelings goes a long way, and it might help you through your grief too. Perhaps you feel a sense of loss for both. I know that after my mom died of Alzheimer's and then my dad began showing signs of dementia, I just wanted to "make everything better." I didn't want to watch another long decline. This community and talking with family and friends helps. Take care.
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Than you all for your kind comments!
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Heartfelt condolences on the passing of your father. It's especially difficult when someone crosses over during the holidays.

That said, ok, your mom may have some dementia. And l say "some" because MOST dementia comes with some memory deficits, and she seems to me to be remembering your father far too well to have sunk very deeply into the dementia abyss as yet.

MRI's with their clanging and banging, not to mention the need to be still for long periods of time, are scary and trying. My mom had to be virtually put out with 4 mg of Valium in order to tolerate the process and the cap on her head. I wouldn't put your mom through that at this point in time with everything else she's going through. Maybe never unless there is a definitive reason why you need to.

Whether it's structured religiosity, new age spirituality or personal philosophy, more people believe in the afterlife then don't. It always amazes me that people who have faith in that concept, are surprised that there may from time to time be some visual and/or physical manifestation. Who's to say that the white vapor she mentiones ISN'T your dad coming through from the non-physical? What's the harm in letting her believe if it comforts her?
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I wouldn't put your mom through an MRI right now. Wait a while to see if other symptoms pop up. If she continues to feel comforted by talking to your dad, what harm is there in that? I'm not a religious person, but I talk to my dad's ashes from time to time. It is comforting to think that the spirit of the person still exists. What's wrong with trying to comfort yourself after losing a loved one? At her age, she's probably suffered many losses. My mom at 94 has lost all of her siblings and most of her friends. I'd support her in any comfort she can find and just relax as much as possible. Confirming a diagnosis right now won't change how you react to her.
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I'm sorry for your loss and the challenges you face with your mom. It's never easy...

It sounds to me like your mom's doing a great job of grieving and I wouldn't worry so much about the dementia unless unmanageable behaviors become a problem. MRIs can be really difficult and create anxiety; I'm not sure I'd put her through that right now. You're both grieving; express it, honor it and take care of one another... Your obviously doing a great job!
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Katelyn4, You're dealing with a lot. I'm sorry. One thing I'd like to add to everything that's been said here is.... perhaps it would help you to identify for yourself what's behind your question? People are saying to you "what does it matter whether it's grief or dementia?" but you're asking which of those it is, so there's something about it that matters to you. Perhaps part of you is anxious about what the future looks like and that seems different if what's happening now is grief vs. what's happening now is dementia? Or something like that? If so, be gentle with yourself as well as with your mother... It would be unkind to give a grieving widow (demented or not!) the message "that's not grief, you're just demented" -- and it would also be unkind to give yourself the message "I shouldn't be worried about anything." Things will unfold as they unfold anyway.
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At 91 your mother does not need imo to be confirmed for dementia, isn't it apparent? Grief and dementia, it is loss all of it. I would let her talk to whomever or whatever she wants, if she feels his presence that is good, who are we to question that, we just don't know what lies beyond this realm of existence. She can talk to him, whatever for as long as she wants, it comforts her and that is all that matters for her right now. I would also make sure that she interacts with the living and gets out and about too.
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First, I am sorry for your loss, and at 91 yrs. your mother is really suffering even though she has dementia. Talking to a dead spouse is nothing abnormal as it is a coping mechanism. If they had been married a very long time, know that research has found widowers die within one year of a spouse dying, widows fare much better. Even with your mother's dementia if she is in the mild to moderate stage, she could last 5 - 7 yrs. No one knows how long one will live and when God wants her to join your father, he'll take her. Then they can watch out for you...
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Personally, I am a bit envious of your situation. I, too, recently lost my 90 year old father. My mom also has vascular dementia, however she keeps forgetting her husband of 67 years has passed. She won't look at my dad's picture. I totally believe your mom is connected to your dad's soul. I would be so happy and reassured she's in good company at all times...or at least in her mind. Hopefully, your mom doesn't feel alone! What a blessing.
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I'm so sorry for your loss. This is very, very recent, though - and your mother is handling it the only way she can. You're doing the right thing by comforting and reassuring her.

The MRI might be helpful as a guide, but I shouldn't rush it unless there's a pressing clinical need to do so. In addition to your mother's current grief (which the whole family must be feeling, too), don't forget that during the last three months, when you've been noticing signs of dementia, she will have been under enormous stress.

With my mother, I find it very difficult to know what is causing her concentration, memory and mental processes to be poor on a given day: it could be one kind of dementia or another, but it could also be fatigue, depression, illness, deafness, loss of vision… In the end, does it matter? Your mother isn't delusional - she doesn't actually think your father is physically present in the ordinary meaning of it. Anything else, it's all right to play it by ear and do/say whatever makes her most comfortable.

And please do take a little time and space for your own grief. My sympathies x
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I think she is deeply connected to the spiritual world and a belief in life after death. She misses him and wants to cross that threshold to eternity. She deserves to be with him, doesn't she? Just tell her " A little while longer and you'll be dancing together."
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