How do I tell my 90 year old dad his sister passed?

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I care for both my elderly parents. Recently we received the news that my dad's only living sibling passed away in Italy. I am not sure how to break the news to him since he’s been very emotional and anxious lately. My mom has been dealing with a very delicate health issue and she’s been in and out of the hospital. This has caused a lot of stress for my dad.

I was talking to his doctor and she believes he’s at the beginning stages of dementia. Besides this condition, he’s in fairly good health.

Some people told me I should avoid him the grief and not say anything at all. However, I do feel an obligation to tell him and besides my uncle will be coming to Florida soon to spend some time with us. Obviously he will be coming alone!

My aunt was very close to us and I know my dad will not take the news well... Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

Thanks!

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I told my 89 yo dad, while he was in the hospital, his younger 87 yo brother died.
His brother was in another country and they seldom spoke. Dad was hard of hearing, phone conversations were not very effective.
I wanted to tell him while i the hospital in case it caused a physical reaction.
This is one of the few decisions of his care I came to regret. It made him very sad.

My fear was that some extended family member would have come to pay condolences and he would feel betrayed, if I had not told him.

Whatever you decide is OK, there is no right or wrong only difficult choices made from a position of love.

Good luck,
L
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Sunnysmile, anxiety is a very common symptom of dementia. While dementia itself cannot be treated, many of the symptoms can be, and anxiety is one that can often be minimized or eliminated. I would ordinarily try to respect his beliefs about convention medicine, but if can possibly get him to accept anxiety medication under any pretext I urge you to try. It will be a big improvement both for you and for him, and probably even for your mother. Would he try it for her sake?

I would tell him of the death. Perhaps wait for a calm period, or until he has been on anxiety meds for a while, but definitely before he would expect to hear from her. I would tell him once. If he brings up his sister after that ("I wonder why Sis hasn't written this month?") I would say something noncommittal and change the subject. Hitting him with a death announcement over and over seems unintentionally cruel. But not telling him at all is also not respectful.

This is a very difficult topic. However you decide to handle it, don't second-guess if you did right ... there often aren't "right" answers in dealing with dementia.
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Hi Nancy thanks for your reply. Right now my dad is still coherent. At times he experiences confusion and it takes him a few minutes to get focused again. He does understand everything that goes on around him, but the biggest issue that I see is him being so anxious all the time and this scares me because I'm not sure how he will take the news... I must say that even though the doctor recommended some anxiety medication, he refuses to take it. He’s never been much of a fan of conventional medicine…
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You didn't say how your dads mental state is exactly. Will he remember you telling him this or will you have to constantly repeat it? That makes a huge difference in my opinion. If he'll remember you telling him, then he will have to grieve the loss of his sister, but you shouldn't have to keep repeating it at least. And you're right, when his brother-in-law comes to visit without his wife, oh my gosh if your dad doesn't know ahead of time I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. But like I said, it all depends on his mental state right NOW. Sorry.
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