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My 97 year old mother was recently diagnosed with moderate dementia and is now in a skilled nursing facility, which causes her a great deal of angst. She constantly talks about going home. But that’s not the issue, just gives you an idea of her psyche. She also frequently believes that I am dead. I see her every other day (the SNF is 45 minutes away from me), yet often enough on the days that I am NOT there, I get a call from nursing because Mom is just inconsolable because she believes that I am dead, that someone is bringing caskets to her, etc. Talking to me on the phone is not good enough, I can tell her facts that nobody else could possibly know, and she’ll respond, “Anyone could find that out! You’re an imposter!” She has asked me to drop what I’m doing and drive there so she can see me in person, which I have refused to do, telling her I’ll see her the next morning.


So, the problem is, my husband and I planned a 2-week trip to Europe a year ago, before any of these current issues. The trip is coming up quickly, and I am just at a loss as to what to tell her. Do I tell her I’m going on vacation for 2 weeks and won’t be able to visit? Do I tell her I’m going to Europe (which could cause her to worry more) or tell her that I’m going a couple of states away (which could lead to frequent phone calls)? I want her to worry as little as possible, although I may be fooling myself on that one because she will probably worry equally no matter where she thinks I am. I’m purchasing the full international cell phone service because I’m expecting phone calls at all hours from the nursing staff asking me to talk to Mom and assure her I’m ok. Maybe I should put a sign on her bulletin board that says, “Louise is on vacation from X until X (dates),” although I didn’t really want to tell her that I’ll be away for two weeks because her sense of time is warped and if I don’t tell her I’m gone for 2 weeks, she may not realize it’s that long. But, on the other hand, she may think I’m gone forever.


I can’t cancel this trip. My husband would not forgive me. I cancelled a trip to Canada in July because my mother was melting down really badly (that was before she was in SNF), that was bad enough. Plus, we are traveling with a single friend, and I can’t leave her in the lurch, either. Oh, and I am the only child, so there is that. I have two daughters who will go see her on weekends, but they are both working with very limited time off available, I’m not asking them to take days off to go visit her during the week. I have friends of hers lined up to go visit, but it’s not the same ... she doesn’t obsess about THEM being dead.


I welcome all of your suggestions!

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I really see where your coming from but I would not allow the facility to call you to just to console Mom. Maybe in an emergency, like they need permission for something, but you are on vacation. Your daughters can handle what comes up. These people are professionals, they should know how to calm her down. I would ask to see if there is an anxiety med that can be given to her. Dementia patients get something in their head and they won't let it go. My Mom believed the staff over me. If they said it was so, it was so.

With a Dementia patient less is best. If you feel you need to tell Mom you will be away, just say you will not be able to see her because hubby is taking you away for a few days. You will see her when you come back. In the meantime, so and so will be there to visit. Not being aware of time anymore, she may not realize 2 weeks from 2 days. And I will bet, she will forget what you said by the next day. Wait to tell her the day before you leave and at the end of your visit. Have an aide near by if she gets upset. Like a child, don't elaborate. Kiss her on the cheek, give her a hug and leave. The aide will be there.

You and your husband need this. Mom is in a safe place being cared for. This trip is a once in a lifetime thing. Don't spoil it by worrying about Mom. Enjoy!
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Reply to JoAnn29
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When my DH and I would be able to go away on vacation, if Moms health was pretty stable, I would hire a private caregiver to visit her for about 4 hours a day in the NH. She could answer the (constant) question of where I was, keep her occupied, and she’d text me how mom was doing. This would keep Mom from driving the NH aids crazy with her questions for a few hours. I brought her into the facility in advance to show her the ropes and introduce her to the staff. It was a huge relief for me and well worth it.
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Reply to rocketjcat
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Quint41 Sep 1, 2018
Now THAT is a great idea!! She used to love her cleaning lady. I am going to give her a call and see if she has time to do this for me! Thanks for this idea!
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Get your mother a consult with a geriatric psychiatrist! She needs meds for her anxiety and agitation. They might also suggest an antipsychotic for her delusions.

Please be open to medication suggestions. Your mother doesnt deserve to be in this kind of psychic pain.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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jacobsonbob Sep 4, 2018
Hi Barb--Yes, it's true that her mother doesn't deserve to be in this kind of psychic pain, but sometimes only so much can be done to prevent or alleviate it. There are a lot of things we don't "deserve" (such as diseases and other misfortunes), but they happen anyway and a certain number of them are inevitable.

Having said the foregoing, I believe your suggestions are excellent.
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"I want her to worry as little as possible, although I may be fooling myself on that one because she will probably worry equally no matter where she thinks I am."

Your statement above basically says it all. It won't matter if it is 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years - she has NO concept of time! I would not tell her anything about your planned trip AND you need to focus on your trip, not mom. She is in (hopefully) good hands. If she is stressing about your being MIA even an hour or a day after a visit, nothing will assuage that, so there is no point to telling her (she will forget it anyway) AND there is no point to you worrying about it either!

As for meds, they should not be so strong that they knock your mom out. Our mother periodically gets in a snit about something (generally it has been thinking she has guests coming and needs to get home!) We got Rx for this (Lorazepam), AS NEEDED only - she does not get this on a regular basis, it generally works in a very short time (doesn't need to build up in her system) and calms her down (they try all other tricks of the trade first, sometimes for an hour or more before resorting to medication.)

I also would not have the staff calling you at all hours, just to "console" her. If it even works (sounds from your posts it does NOT), it will only work for a short time. If there is a REAL issue, yes, they can call, otherwise no. You have already said that talking to her now by phone does not work (you are an impostor), so what purpose would calls at all hours serve, other than to interrupt your trip and/or sleep?

I also think the idea suggested about hiring someone to come in every day and visit with her might be a good one. Changing focus/redirection sometimes can move the person on to some other topic. Also, write up some cards and letters, addressed and stamped and have one mailed by your daughters each day, so she has something to look at/forward to. Sure, it likely will not alleviate these delusions, but it might give her something to focus on, especially with her "visitor".

No matter what, she already experiences these delusions, so let the staff deal with her and GO ENJOY YOUR TRIP!!!
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Reply to disgustedtoo
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Don't put off life with with your husband because of her. When she said, "There’s plenty of time for you to travel after I’m gone.” She was being ultra selfish. There may not be plenty of time. The year my dad was going to retire and he and mom were going to travel, he died. I know a of other people who did the same. When you married you were supposed to cleave to your husband. He deserves your undivided attention for a couple of weeks.

Also, tell the facility, to call one of your daughters only if it is a true emergency, she can make the decision to call you or not. Your husband needs the break. If your mom dies while you are gone, it won't be your fault, she is 97 years old. You could be killed just driving to see her, what would happen then? You are not indispensable, no one is.

Please, go on your trip, have a great time, give your husband your love and attention. He deserves that.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
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jfbctc Sep 4, 2018
Hi Mary Kathleen,
Once again you are right on the mark. An excellent reply. We were both on the same track on this one. Glad to see you writing again. Glad to have made a new friend.

God Bless,
John
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I always get good information from this forum and even if It doesn’t pertain to my circumstances now, it may in the future. The two best suggestions: hiring a person to spend time with your mother daily, and recording a video to show your mother; the same video could be played every day. Also, the facility should not call you for the purpose of consoling your mother. I understand how you feel being her only child, but at your age you can’t put your life on hold indefinitely.
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Reply to Susanonlyone
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I agree with Joann29 and BarbBrooklyn. I’ve gotten to the point of not telling my mother much because she won’t remember anyway. She doesn’t know if I was there 5 minutes ago or 5 days ago. She is currently living at her own home with a live-in so she’s being cared for and the aide would call if there was an issue. She was put on medication about 5 months ago because of her delusions and its helped immensely. Good luck and enjoy your trip.
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Reply to DDavis24
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Would taking photos of various places you go and emailing them be a simply way to show you are "alive and well" but away (e.g., smiling with the Eiffel Tower behind you)? Hopedly she would recognize your face so that you aren't accused of being an "imposter".

I was away for over three weeks, and when I saw my mother yesterday (after having returned the night before) she said she had no idea that I had been away that long!
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Reply to jacobsonbob
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Hum, maybe you can pre record some quick videos on a tablet or phone and send them to her caregivers before you leave to show to your mom to placate her in your absence. Some quick little snipets like, “ Hi Mom, can’t wait to see you. I hope you are having a good day, Love you Mom. See you soon.” This has worked for my folks to watch video messages( with the help of others working the technology) They think whatever they are watching is in the here and now most times but they also light up when they see and hear the messages I’ve been told. Good luck to you and ENJOY your trip. You deserve happiness now. Tomorrow is never promised and waiting for a “ good time to leave her” is not healthy for anyone. Hugs to you.
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Reply to Alzh101
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Hi Quint, as you can see from all of these great answers PLEASE GO on your vacation and try not to worry. Most of the caregivers on this site would absolutely love to be able to take a 2 week vacation to Europe. I'm guessing that most would LOVE even to be able to have 24 hours off!! What happens to your mom will happen whether or not you are there. If you believe in a higher power, put your faith there and go and enjoy your time away. I heard a good saying about worry, which roughly is : Worrying is like paying interest on a loan that is not due. So true, another good one (again if you are a believer) : Let go and let God.

It's time for the 2 of you to take care of yourselves. How terrible it would be if you don't go because you're worried and one of you were to get sick (or God forbid) die without having this special time together. I'm willing to bet your mom went on vacation and so should you!

Please go! For you and for all of us that wish we could go. Blessings to you, Lindaz.
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Reply to lindaz
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Quint41 Sep 6, 2018
Thank you, Linda. Yes, you are right. I think of that often (who’s to say we will be healthy enough to travel when Mom IS gone), and, yes, I have said to myself many, many times ... what were YOU doing when YOU were 61 years old, Mom? We’re YOU taking care of your mother? No, you weren’t. You were going wherever you wanted whenever you wanted. We are going. I’m going to do my best to not worry. Maybe those good Spanish Riojas will help.
Thank. You.
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