What do you say or do if a man with dementia has lost his wife and he is asking for her?

Follow
Share

Should you lie to some one with dementia? What do you say or do if a man with Dementia has lost his wife died and he is asking for her? Should you lie to some one with Dementia ?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
29

Answers

Show:
In most cases I'd just say, "you'll see her soon." You're not really lying, you are comforting him. Try to distract him after you tell him that if you can. He just doesn't need to go through the pain - again - of being told of her death.

Take care,
Carol
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

I'm assuming he should already know his wife is gone but just can't remember? There would be no point in breaking his heart over and over by reminding him. Don't think of it as a lie, it's known as therapeutic fibbing.
If you find it difficult you can find ways to tell the truth in a round about way... "she can't come today because she is away", "she's visiting her parents", "she's getting the new place ready for you both", whatever he will accept and makes sense. If it helps, sometimes they will be looking for a spouse or child and that person is still right in front of them, but the face they remember is from years ago, you need to learn to enter their world to keep the happy.
Helpful Answer (12)
Report

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree CM. What you say makes sense if someone is in the early stages of dementia, of course they need someone they can trust to keep them grounded and tell them what they have forgotten, but if the man in question was still somewhat cognizant then I don't think the poster would have needed to ask. Once they reach the point where their reality is forever altered I can see no point in reminding them they are losing their mind, especially if it is causing distress. If they ask "did Mary die" of course you answer truthfully, but if they are not aware enough to ask then fibbing seems the kinder approach.
Helpful Answer (7)
Report

cwillie is right. It's not really a lie. When someone has Alzheimer's sometimes we have to make up new rules to accommodate the disease and as cwillie mentioned, by telling him over and over that his wife has died would be cruel and breaking his heart each time you tell him.

When he asks where his wife is pacify him by telling him she's at work or visiting friends....whatever is appropriate. Of course if she never worked then telling him his wife is at work isn't a good idea but you get the idea.

People with Alzheimer's can't be expected to live in our reality. They're not capable of that anymore. We have to go into their reality and be with them there. It's heartbreaking and exhausting and mentally draining.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report

I agree, it is just too cruel to keep telling them over and over ( and they will ask you a million times) that their beloved spouse is dead. My mother would always ask about her parents, and they had been gone for 50 years. So I would make up stories about how they were and I would tell her her mother was in a home just like the one she was in. And she loved it there. She was ok with that. Strange part is, my father had passed away only a year earlier, and she never asked about him. And when she asked about Dad, she meant her father. I just never wanted to upset her, it wasn't necessary.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report

I don't agree.my mom asks about my father, or more often her parents frequently and is more confused when the staff makes up stories. When I tell her they are "gone" now and have been for a long time, she thanks me for telling her the truth. She relies on me to tell her the truth even if no one else will.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report

It seems to me a lot depends on the individual with dementia. My dad sometimes asks about his father and a few other people who have passed. I tell the truth but couch it in terms of passing rather than dying. He then says, my memory's not so good anymore and we move on. I never make a big deal about any of this but treat it as normal. It works for us but it may not work for everyone.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

I agree that a tactful lie is needed, but if I were the caregiver, I would be reluctant to say, "She's getting the new place ready for you," because I would be afraid he might start packing a suitcase or giving away things he didn't want to take to the new place, or be frightened by the idea of going to a new place. My late husband had dementia, and often operated on several different levels in one day. Example: My birthday is in April; his was in May. When I mentioned our birthdays, he said, "Yes, we have two birthdays and a wedding anniversary coming up soon. He was right about the birthdays, but our anniversary was in January. His first wife, whom he divorced, was the one with whom he shared a June anniversary.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

I think Linnea is dealing with a parent who is still has much more cognitive ability than the others mentioned in this thread. And, I think, her mother is over all more aware of her own deficits than the others. I think this choice works for her Mom. Unfortunately this is part of what makes this so difficult. It's a judgement call. In my experience, this is the more rare situation. Telling the truth in similar situations just did not work with either of my folks in their later days. It caused so much distress and disruption. The carefully worded lie and redirection were less painful for all of us . Part of their issue was the fact that neither of them ever recognized that they had any memory problem. They adamantly refused to believe they could possbly be mistaken, about anything. And became enraged at any attempt to tell them otherwise. When Dad told Mom that her father was long dead, it was not just painful for her, but also intiated a major violent episode. Unfortunately he was in the early stages of Alzheimers, while she was in the later. She was well into the stage where redirection and a gentle lie would be the better choice. But he had already lost the ability to see anything from any point of view other than his own. He insisted he was right, telling a lie to save her pain just did not compute for him. ?...Good luck to all dealing with this.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

My mother began by asking how her mother was and at first I told her she had passed away. She seems to understand and except it, then she started talking about her father and sibling and I told her they had passed. I could see that it upset her, but she still understood. Over Christmas she asked started talking about her husband and where he was and after about the 20th time of her asking I finally folder her "Dad had passed away 20 years ago". She completely broke down and cried for 45 minutes. I was eventually able to get her calmed down by moving her to a different room and changed the subject to something else. I will never tell her again that someone has passed away. It completely broke my heart when she was crying and could not seem to understand that it had been 20 years. I was like it had just happened. We now tell her that Dad is away and her parents and sibling are away. She seems satisfied with this answer.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.