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My 84 yo aunt has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia and has terrible short-term memory loss coupled with severe depression which isn't controlled by meds (we're trying but haven't found the "magic pill" yet). Interestingly although she can't remember anything from her day, she can still have a very cognizant conversation about how she feels and what she can or cannot remember. She can knock out the NYTimes crossword puzzle in no time flat — if we can rouse her from her apathy. And there is the rub. She is so depressed all she talks about is wanting to die (she's not actually suicidal), life not worth living because she has dementia, etc.


I have been trying to call her daily, but I don't know how to structure the conversation — I can't ask her about her day because she doesn't remember any of it, and is just makes her depressed to be asked any question. Since I work at home all day I don't have any "news" for her. Should I give up on the daily phone calls? She doesn't really seem to be interested in them but I don't want her to feel abandoned.

It is up to you if you want to continue the calls.

You can keep the calls fairly short. Give yourself 5 minutes before the call to find something to talk about. A new recipe you are going to try. Whether or not you should paint the front door. How the grandkids are doing if they are back to school. The birds you see outside your window. A fond memory.

I love your comment about the cross word. I had an elderly neighbour who had vascular dementia after a stroke. Although she could no longer tell the difference between genders, she continues to play a good game of bridge.
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Reply to Tothill
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Boy I hear you on this...same with my MIL, although not as depressed. You can find SHORT uplifting or interesting articles/blurbs online and then read them to her over the phone, ask her "What do you think about that?" at the end if you get the sense she was following. Example: (we live in MN and my MIL has short-term memory loss and is in LTC) "On the evening news was a story about how someone videoed an adult loon that had a mallard duckling on its back (instead of a baby loon, which is how they parent). They showed the pictures of the duckling getting larger and still riding on the back of the loon in the water! Isn't that wacky?" Then because she still knows what loons are we chatted more about it. She got a pretty good kick out of that one. If you know what her interests were in earlier days you could focus on finding info on those topics. If her talk veers into depressing stuff redirect it and it's ok if it is very abrupt -- bring up anything that's positive. If she has memory loss you can literally tell her the same story every time you call and use the same redirection conversation. It's challenging (and also on an emotional lever for you), no doubt about it. Also, you don' have to call her every day. I wish you all the best as you navigate how best to show your love.
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Reply to Geaton777
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When my mother was in NH completely debilitated by stroke but mentally aware, I also struggled for positive conversation. I came up with telling her jokes, often corny and juvenile, just to make her laugh for a moment. This is so hard, I’m glad you’re trying to keep up the communication, I would bet it’s appreciated even though it’s not shown
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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I have found that asking about things I know they are interested in is the best. (Ask probing questions and make notes for future reference.)

For some that is their previous work, some it is their animals and others it is family from long ago. I love hearing old pioneering stories and getting into all of the innovative changes seen. Of course you have to learn to be engaging when you are hearing the same thing for the 3rd or 5th or 20th time. I think it is really about helping them feel joy or contentment in the moment, because they only have that with this awful disease.

Good luck finding a way to create positive interactions.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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