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Mom asks where Dad is over and over again. We have tried telling her the "cliff notes" version of his death which she accepts after being upset. Then later in the same conversation, she asks where he is again. We have also tried telling her he is on a business trip to which she gets angry (and stays angry) that he hasn't called her. Is there a "better" way to handle this?

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So, I visit my mother in the nursing home. She has dementia. She knows all of her children and even our spouses. She knows the lady who sits at her dining table and chats with her, but she doesn't know that lady's name. She is wheel-chair bound. Her brain is damaged, but she is sweet and fun-loving and amazingly content where she is.

She asks me when they will be back.
Who is that, Ma?
Your dad and his friends. They went fishing.
Oh, well, I haven't heard when they'll be back. But I sure hope they catch a lot of fish. I remember the fish fries we used to have ... [off on a different memory].
Ma is content, and happy to think about a pleasant time in the past.

OR I could have handled it this way:
Who is that, Ma?
Your dad and his friends. They went fishing.
Mother! Dad died 17 years ago. Most of his friends are dead. He is not fishing. He is never coming back.
Oh no! He can't be dead! We had dinner last night. Oh, this is terrible! Why didn't anyone tell me? It can't be true. etc.
Mother, if you can't accept the truth, that is your problem. I'm leaving now.

Good grief. To me there is absolutely no contest between these two approaches.
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Sorry folks, I know this is a sensitive subject but I'd like to get my point across.
1RareFind,
I, too, am a Christian. I believe Jesus' main purpose in coming was to save us by loving us enough to die for our sins, so we can stand before God, the Father, blameless. He is known for compassion, mercy and love. That said, I'd like you to read this from Ephesians 4:29;
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Do you think Jesus would 'drive home' the "truth" over and over to a person who has had their brain Literally eaten away from Alzheimer's and is UNABLE to process the answer,
then to relive the agony again in a few minutes, just because the commandment says, "Thou shalt not lie"? Jesus was a rule breaker. He threw out traditions and laws of His OWN (Jewish) religion in the faces of the elders, who knew God's word backwards and forwards. Why? Because He taught the principles of Compassion, Mercy and Love as more important than keeping the law. Of course you have every right to do it your way. But, in your steadfast, hard line approach, (take the truth or I'll walk away but I'll never lie), would this be in line with Jesus' message? Remember the saying in the 80's, "What would Jesus do"? I believe He would have compassion on the poor soul that has no brain function and give her an answer that would be comforting to her, to "be helpful to build her up". Compassion, mercy and love trump rules and laws. Have we learned nothing from His examples?
So Ireneskids, answer her with compassion, mercy and love in whatever way that will be "helpful and build her up". God bless you. Many of us are in the same situation.
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Thanks for the comments - and the question! - as I am dealing with this now. I appreciate the compassionate, useful responses that serve to preserve the loved one's dignity and peace of mind. To the person who won't lie, no matter what. All bets are off when you are dealing with someone with dementia. Life isn't always black and white. Probably why I would never tell a friend she is grossly overweight, versus "maybe you could lose a few pounds" in the name of "honesty." Honesty isn't always the best policy, especially with a frail person with dementia. Glad to hear that person told the truth, then walked away. Please...keep walking far away from any person with dementia asking that type of question. Wouldn't want you in the position of having to tell a lie. Unbelievable!
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Please don't tell Mom that her husband has died, she will only morn each time.

The business trip idea is good but if he was the type of person who rarely, if ever, called home [my sig other is like that] then Mom would be angry, I know I would. Think of another reason that you know your Mom wouldn't be angry that he didn't call, like he is busy helping a neighbor, or he's down the street watching football with a friend.
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Llamalover47, nonsense. At least nonsense for elders with dementia. The reason they ask the same question over and over again is because there is damage in their brains.
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It's disturbing that some here think arguing, stalking out of the room, insisting on 'telling the truth/facing reality' , or getting angry at them for 'not listening' when they ask where their loved ones are is the way to go. NONE OF THIS applies to a dementia patient - they have deteriorating brains. If you are very lucky, they only ask you a few times a day, and you can definitely deflect the question: "I saw him go out earlier, he said he was going to go help Phil fix his car......oh, look at the cute dog across the street!". And they are good with that, until of course they forget and ask again! They will ask again and again, and it doesn't matter what you say, whether it's true or not, kindly deflecting and changing the subject is better than getting all het up because they just. don't. GET. It.
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I'd just try to figure something to tell her that doesn't upset her, but that works. Since her memory is poor, could you say that he called when she was taking a nap and sent his love? Or, say that he had to text her and then secretly send a text on his behalf or does she know what that is? Or that his cell phone doesn't get reception where he is, but he'll call when he reaches the airport.

I wonder if the explanations you are giving do work, it's just that she forgets what you said, so she keeps asking.
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Why don't you make a book of photos and if she can still read, begin the book with his birthdate and date of death? The photos of better times will help soothe the loss and she will grieve just like the rest of us losing a loved one without dementia. Soon her mind will fixate on another dimension.
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1RareFind, truth may be truth but compassion trumps it!
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Yes Jeannegibbs, I completely agree! What if you can't just walk away, what if your Loved one is in the same house, just where are you going to walk away to? There your Loved one sits, bawling their eyes out, and you keep telling them over and over again, that their Husband has died, causing them pain and grief? No way! That's just plain cruelty! I know that I couldn't do it! Sorry, but sometimes you just have to tell a fib to protect their heart!
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