Do you give horrible news to elderly, sick parents?


My parents are 98. My father has a very bad heart that is failing. My mother is confused and disconnected from reality much of the time. My niece has just committed suicide. Should I tell them? How? It was not something that could be passed off as an accident (gun). I don't know what to do.

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I was writing while OneMoreDay was writing in posting. The thought occurred to me also, that her mom brought up, about how awesome your folks would see your niece, and whether they would miss her if she wasn't there. Doesn't matter as long as you give the right answer. And in that case, the answer is the same that it was to my dad: sorry, she just couldn't make it today IR she's on her way and we'll get here as soon as you can.

There are many names for the act of not telling a dementia percent the truth. I call it therapeutic lying. Why EVER do anything to upset them that you don't have to do? And believe me there will be plenty of things that upset them that you WILL have to do!
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Certainly NOT...there is no reason on earth that they need to know this information. It will serve absolutely no purpose. And you must tell other family and friends you have decided to shield your folks from this horror and instruct them that they are not to bring it up either.

When my father had Alzheimer's and kept living in the past asking when he would see his folks, my mom kept telling him they had died and would bring out the funeral memorial brochure to show himself. Every time, he would break down and cry. Every time, he would really experience their deaths. In the beginning, I had to let my mom do what she thought was right. But after seeing this go on for months, she and I nearly had a knock down, drag out fight and I finally convinced her that telling him was abusive, that not telling him was compassionate. She expressed nervousness and discomfort did not telling him the truth. I said, mom, let's just try not telling him and see what happens. What should I say if he asks me directly, she worried. We agreed to say they were on their way and would get here as soon as possible. My dad accepted that, forgot about it, and didn't cry anymore.
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I hate to give advice so mull over all the good suggestions you will receive here before deciding how to handle this. With that said, I think sometimes the same advice given to parents regarding a child's questions/need to know is best: Just answer questions honestly and briefly on a "need to know" basis.

I just asked my 83 year old mother who is stage 5/6 AD. She gave it a lot of thought and said she wouldn't want to know that. She then said it would depend on how frequently your parents see their granddaughter. Will they expect to see her for Sunday dinner? Does she always come for birthdays and holidays? Will your parents notice her absence if they're not told?

I know my Mom would ruminate and wring her hands if I shared such information with her. I'm not sure I could lie if she asked, but I'm sure I would minimize the horror by claiming it was an accident, even if it wasn't. Be sure to speak with your niece's parents to be sure you're on the same page with this. I'm sure you don't want to be accused of lying or omitting news if they plan to tell your Mom and Dad about the tragedy.

God bless you and I'm so sorry that you have this additional burden dropped on you and your parents. We try to live peacefully and shelter our loved ones from the grizzly details of life in the new millennium, but sometimes we just have no choice.
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