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My mother lives in a senior care facility in independent living. There is a waiting list for assisted living - where she needs to be. She is 89 and in the process of being diagnosed. Our family is going out of state for 2 weeks at Christmas, driving over 1,000 miles. We do not believe this is a good trip for her at this time. How do we tell her that she will be staying home and no family member will be staying behind with her. Her senior apt complex has many workers, provides meals, entertainment, weekly house cleaning, but she just wants to stay in her apt or be with my sister and I. How do we best talk to her?

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Right. It depends on how much she can understand.

My cousin doesn't have any realization of a holiday. We will go and celebrate, take gifts, etc., but she doesn't know what it's all about. If you asked her what the Santa Clause on her door was about, she would not know. She smiles to see us around her, but in 5 minutes, she has no memory that we were there. So, when there is no recognition of what a holiday is and no memory of what has happened minutes prior, then it's more of the warm feelings you are giving, rather than the details.

I've read that they may not remember details, but they have a sense of a feeling. I don't know if that is true, but I hold on to it and try to give her good feelings, even though I know she doesn't recall what happened.
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I would ask the same question as Sunnygirl, how much does your Mom process?

Maybe with you and your family being away for two weeks, maybe your Mom will come out of her room and attempt to be with the other residents... which would be good for her.
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How much does she process? Is she oriented to time? If she is able to understand the holiday and what it means, then I would try a couple of things.

I might arrange to have a family celebration before you leave, even if it's just for an hour. You can all join her at her apt., bring gifts, food, play music and celebrate like it's Christmas Eve., explaining that you will be gone on Dec. 25. Take photos and videos and post them in her apt.

I would then arrange for a family friend or church member to go by to visit her on Christmas Eve or Day and take her another wrapped gift from you, along with a video of your previous celebration. Will she recall that? Some dementia patients won't recall what happened on Christmas Eve, by the next day.

I would then telephone her several times throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to give her positive thoughts and well wishes.

Also, see if the people in charge are planning a celebration. Is there anyone there your mom may want to give a gift to? If so, I would buy that and allow her to give to her friend on Christmas Day. Giving is more fun than receiving for many. You will know if she is capable for that to mean much to her.

If she is able to understand, you can explain why you will not be there.
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