I tried finding the answer on here but no answer fit quite right. My grandfather has dementia and his wife of 67 years passed away 5 months ago. The first couple of months he knew she was gone, accepted it and talked about good memories and how he misses her. However, now he doesn't believe she is gone. He thinks that because we moved her bed from the dining room that she saw that and left him to go into a nursing home for better care. He has now been sending letters to all the nursing homes in NH and Maine addressed to his wife asking her to come home. He still has his drivers license and we are worried that he will begin going to the nursing homes when my grandmother doesn't respond to his letters. We tried explaining to him that she had passed away whenever he would ask where she was, but now he just won't believe it. He even says she was just here this morning. We switched our approach to telling him lies. "She is at the store" etc. but that has only fueled the fire and he is now always worried that she hasn't made it home yet. He even had us move her bed from upstairs back into the dining room so if she came to visit again she would see it was back in place and decide to stay. I know there may be no real solution to this but we're looking for help and advice any where we can. Thank you!

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
I feel for you too, as this is a tough situation for your grandfather and family. Generally you have to accept a person with dementia's reality, but it's tough when it's causing them distress or when it's really disrupting the household.

I would say you have to just keep experimenting with what you say and do. On one hand, keep experimenting with the fiblets (the "little lies").

On the other hand, see if there's a way you can acknowledge his thinking about her and then redirect his attention. For instance, you could try saying "You're thinking of her? You wish she were here?" and then ask him to tell you more about her and how they met. Or maybe redirect him towards doing some benign activity that she would appreciate, like something in the garden or house.

In general, if you occupy him enough with physical and social activities, he might end up less anxious about his late wife's whereabouts.

On another front: if he is that forgetful, then I would be a little concerned about him continuing to drive. So at some point, your family may want to think about how to approach the issue of his stopping driving. The Alzheimer's Association has some good handouts on this topic:

Good luck!
Helpful Answer (9)

I'd sure disable his car or haul it away ASAP without his knowing and tell him it needs work but don't let him drive it anymore. It's only a matter of time before he takes off looking for her and ends up who knows where. Interesting that he is still able to write addresses to nursing homes, knows to put a stamp on the letters and mails them. My mother in the NH daily asks for my dad (and lately both her parents), and it seems to work for awhile when I tell her dad's getting ready for work or is cutting the grass and will come by later. It may never really sink in that his wife is really gone.
Helpful Answer (8)

In a case like this, I find half-truths to be best.

Grammy will be home later tends to work well.

For whatever reasons, your grandfather needs to still have your grandmother - so let him. It does no harm. In the long-run, it should keep him calmer and that is a good thing.

If you have pictures of your grandmother, place them where he can see them.

My dad knew my mother had passed, but I told him to go ahead and talk to her - it does no harm. It's really comforting to say goodnight to a person you love, even if they're no longer there. (I did it whenever my DH was away - I just said goodnight, I love you, as if he was also in the bed. Fell asleep easily that way. And yes, I knew he wasn't there - so what.)
Helpful Answer (5)

Be sure to write to the nursing homes telling them to refuse the letters and/or return to sender. Tell him often that she would never divorce him and/or live with somone. If you think he can accept the reality of her death, take him to the cemetery to see the monument. If you have arranged for him to be buried there when the time comes, tell him so. Do whatever you have to that will keep him from driving. Leave her bed where it is now. It may be of some comfort to him. I wish you peace.
Helpful Answer (4)

I am going to address one part of your question first.
Take away the keys your Grandpa should not be driving.
This could be a great liability for him and possibly you.
Disable the car, sell it, hide the keys, what ever you have to do do it to protect you, him and the rest of the drivers and pedestrians in the surrounding area.

No to how to deal with the rest of the problem.
Can you intercept the letters?
If so can you write back, as your Grandma and tell him everything is well, you miss him and that he should not worry. Tell him she is not permitted visitors at this point but she will continue to write to him.

Personally I would not do this but it is unusual that a person with dementia is this persistent and does not accept the "usual" she has gone to the store, she is at the doctors, and what ever else is told to placate the one asking the questions.

Also depending on how advanced your Grandpa is you might want to consider moving his bed downstairs. Stairs can be a problem and if he begins wandering at night you do not want him falling down the stairs. A broken hip is a difficult recovery for someone with dementia, the surgery is a set back and rehab is difficult if they can not follow directions easily.

I sort of have to laugh your Grandpa sounds like tough, stubborn, New England Stock! About the only thing more stubborn for me (also from New England) was the "Stubborn Pigheaded German" I was married to for over 30 years!
Helpful Answer (4)

I can't give you advice, but I feel for you. My dad died 13 years ago, a couple of months before my parents 56th wedding anniversary. Since my mom was diagnosed with dementia, she thinks he divorced her and is living with someone else. I've told her he died, but she doesn't remember my telling her for very long. They were devoted to each other, so it's very painful. I wish I had a solution for you.
Helpful Answer (3)

My wife is that way about her mom and dad and her husband which is me. I just tell her they had business to take care of and we will talk to them when they get back. She says okay and forgets. I tell her the same words every time. Sometimes she will say they must have business to tend to. Otherwise one will go nuts. : ))
Helpful Answer (2)

Stop the driving A.S.AP. - whatever way you need to do

Was there an obit in your paper? - if so then frame it so you can show him when he is like that - this might be enough - if not do it now - he won't see the date on it

What about getting him to use 'her' bed in dining room? - say now that she is gone she probably would like him to have it, to be closer together - try telling him that anytime he dreams of her then she is sending her love to him - give him something to hold onto where she is concerned - if she had a favourite afghan place it on the bed so he can sleep under it & dream of her & their love together
Helpful Answer (2)

All the answers are good -go with the flow. As to the driving, if he can't remember even if he normally doesn't drive, make sure there is no car available that works. Too many confused people are in accidents or go somewhere not to be found for weeks or months.
Helpful Answer (2)

You're received some amazing useful / educational, psychological and emotionally sensitive ideas here. I'm impressed. While there is no easy or sure-answer (ever), I tuned into the response "redirecting his words - back and shifting the focus of the conversation. It seems to me:
(1) getting out the grief and feelings however he can by sharing how he feels is critically important; ask him "if you could tell xxx now, what would you say to her?"
(2) many of us in very sound mind have challenges accepting death, even though we know it. It is a difficult reality for all of us - and so much more complicated by dementia;
(3) I certainly agree with the car concern-if need be, get MD letter indicating he is unable to drive and alert the local police department.
(4) Get him to talk about his wife as much as possible while also re-directing his attention, both verbally and physically (get him to day-care or get volunteers in to talk to him).
(5) I am no expert in dementia issues - I know some people go to the darkness and hallucinate. I would ask MD about (more) medication to help with this aspect of his behavior; and
(6) Aspects of some of the above may work some of the time. Try to not get discouraged realizing that the key is always a combination lock to open that door, and the combination keeps changing. (I used this image myself to lose/maintain 70+ lbs - and that is another story.
Helpful Answer (2)

See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter