I want to help my Dad accept my stepmother's death and focus on happy thoughts rather than re-live the grief over and over each day. Any suggestions?

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Dad has Dementia, diagnosed almost 18 months ago and living with my family since the death of his wife, my stepmother, last year. At the time of her death Dad was in a rest home and wasn't aware his wife was even sick until the eve of her death (she hid her condition from him for a month or so to avoid unsettling him). Now he is focused on her death every day. Most of the time he remembers that she died but requires confirmation and will ask up to a dozen times a day "She died didn't she?" He then becomes very sad and will often recount his actions at the funeral when he placed his hand on her coffin. It's worrying me as it is consistent sadness. I've heard of people deflecting a dementia sufferer’s questions about a relative’s death so that they are not experiencing the same intensity of grief over and over each time the query comes up but this doesn’t appear to be an option because Dad knows she died but each time he asks for confirmation it's like it's brand new to him. This morning I quite forcefully told him that once he had that confirmation and had felt the grief a little he then needed to move onto thinking about those happy memories he had of her. I told him I understood that he was always going to be sad about her passing and that I would always be there to listen when he talked to me about it but that by reliving it several times a day he would always be in a sad place when he needs to be enjoying his twilight years as much as he possibly can. Obviously with short term memory loss I'm going to have to repeat that statement a few times - but he actually does have a tendency to eventually remember some things - not that they've been said but the general meaning of what's been said. Before his wife’s death I had success in getting him to move forward past the grief with another sad situation in his life (the death of my mother when I was a child). I did this by constantly repeating to Dad that it wasn't his fault, that Mum's fight with depression was the cause of her death and that the catalyst could have been just about anything. It’s worked in that Dad no longer blames himself for her death but unfortunately, he still feels sad even though he now believes that Mum was totally to blame because she thought he did something he now adamantly believes he didn't do (he did but we don't tell him that of course). I'm hoping I can get him to eventually focus on the happy memories rather than the very sad ones so he can feel a bit of peace. Does anybody have any suggestions as to how to work with him to help this happen?

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MACinCT - I do totally get your point and thank you for responding. However Dad is aware that she has died. If he wsn't and was simply asking where she was I would probably avoid the sadness by using therapeutic lying (still can't get over that term) and tell him that she was hoping to be by later. His memory is such that he wouldn't remember he'd asked or that the question had been answered and he would possibly repeat the question a bit later. That sort of answer wouldn't support this constant sadness which steals time from his happy thoughts of the day. However he does know she's passed. What he asks for is confirmation of that memory rather than me having to surprise him with it each time. I can continue confirming but it's not doing him any good to be so "freshly" sad several times a day and I want to try and manoeuvre his habitual thoughts into an acceptance and focus on the positive aspects of his relationship with her.
BarbBrooklyn - you may be right about the ruminating having been something he did pre-Dementia. I know the loss of my mum was huge for him and he has carried the guilt with him through the last 40 years. No he's not seeing a psychiatrist, it definitely might be something to get him onto. Yes it's difficult on both of us but I can accept and move forward. I have my kids and my partner and still a lot of life stretched out before me. I do actually feel quite torn sometimes when although "I" was the one pushing the "you're not to blame" aspect I'm now having to hear him tell me how my Mum was the one to blame and he was totally innocent. Can't win can I *grin*
Isthisreallyreal - thank you. We (my partner and I) couldn't leave him in the home. He's not ready for it. He knew the gate code and never used it to leave unless we were taking him out and he was letting us out. He's able to have decent conversations with friends and family and he understands most of his limitations (and those he doesn't understand he doesn't have the motivation to proceed past suggesting he might do that again soon). I do spend time with him talking about happy memories but the last 30 years are difficult. My stepmother wasn't at all fond of me and so I avoided "getting in the way" of their relationship where Dad was obviously very happy. But it means that his memories of those years aren't available to me. I don't want Dad to think I'm changing the subject and moving away from talking about his wife but perhaps I can talk with my stepbrother, who lives a distance away and can't visit as often as he would like, and glean a few memories from him that I can get Dad to enlighten me on.
GardenArtist - pet therapy! He has already claimed our dog (or is it that the dog has claimed him) LOL so yes that's a brilliant therapy for him (animals have always flocked to him). And I think i can work with some aromatherapy although he's a rampant smoker so I do not know how much of it will get through BUT every cloud has a silver lining and it might help me *grin*. I don't bring up his wife's death all. Dad will catch me with it whenever I pass him a cup of coffee, a meal, stop and sit with him to talk, or even when I'm passing by when he's working away at his word puzzles - it always comes up unfortunately.
Thank you all so much for answering my query. Some great ideas here and it helps to have the support from you all. You're all very kind.
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Given the dementia, I think I would switch the focus and avoid verbally discussing it, but substitute or add something like music therapy, which appeals to people on a different level. Play his favorite music; it will do more than trying to redirect thoughts - music is so powerful it can truly change someone's focus. I use music therapy at home all the time.

I also use aromatherapy, the most powerful of which is the residue of an organic cream I purchased years ago from my supplier. It's a blend of exotic fragrances, such as myrrh, frankincense and more. I brought the almost empty jar with me and used it frequently this week as I thought my father was close to death.

I just kept sniffing and also looking at The English Garden's current issue with a 16 page insert of roses. I honestly could imagine the wonderful, soft and soothing fragrance of David Austin roses.

Cinnamon and mint also help redirect unsettling thoughts. One of my recently purchased garden magazines (I don't remember which one right now) has a good article on fragrances, and the meaning of various flowers. I'm planning to assemble bouquets based on that article. Some of this goes back to Shakespearean times (remember Ophelia's lament?).

I also use floral arrangements with artificial flowers.

Pet therapy is another powerful redirection method. After my sister died, I bought a few soft animal toys; just the feeling of the soft false fur was soothing. A live animal is even better, especially when you feed it treats and train it to lay its head on someone's leg. Gently massaging behind the ears helps as well.

Good luck; this must be so unsettling for both of you.
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Can you bring up happy memories? Dad remember when...? I don't know, just thinking that if you did it might help him.

God bless you for caring for your dad.
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Butterflies; It sounds as though your dad is doing something called ruminating, and that he has done it habitually, perhaps even before the dementia.

Is he seeing a geriatric psychiatrist? There is pretty good evidence that some antidepressants are good at stopping ruminative tendencies. You might have him seen and see if meds will ease his sadness and tendency to dwell on the past. Poor fellow (and you!) have some said history, don't you?

Take care of yourself; this must be very hard for you.
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Sorry to say this but just acknowlege it and move on. His brain is broken. Every time I visit mom she asks how dad is doing (2010), if her sister is sick (2012), and why she has not seen her brothers (2002, 1995, 1976). She is astonished each time. I hope you get the point here.
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