When should a Mom (with dementia) be told of her 66 yr old son's death? - AgingCare.com

When should a Mom (with dementia) be told of her 66 yr old son's death?

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Our best friend's 92 y o mother is in a nursing home (X ~3 years). She has dementia and has suffered many falls and fractures over the years but is able to pivot into a chair. Her son died yesterday in a hospital (was there 10 months except a for a few two week or less unsuccessful stays at home. His mom rarely remembered he was even in the hospital though she was retold (honestly/briefly) whenever she asked where he was. I think I've read that it's recommended a parent or spouse be told once of their loved one's passing. Should this be before the funeral? I am capable of transporting her to the funeral home, or Mass if need be if this is what the family would want.

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My husband has had dementia for 11 years now. During that time, his brother, father and mother passed. We did go to his brother's funeral and he did fine (about 2 years into his disease). We went to his father's funeral 2 years later and he was emotional flat by that time, but still got agitated during the homily. I had follow him outside, as he bolted out the door less than halfway through the 30 minutes service. His parent's friends who didn't know us made many comments about his rude behavior, adding to his mother's stress. Both his brother and dad had died suddenly, a drowning and a stroke.
Three years later, his mother lingered for several months with pancreatic cancer. We went to her one time to see her just days before she died. When he saw her, he didn't want to be in the same room. He became extremely agitated and demanded we "go now." I believe he knew she was dying, even though by that time he could barely talk. She understood, but one of her wishes was to see him before she died and I honored that. She seemed glad we had come. I took leave of his sister and his mother's new husband (of less than a year) and told them we would not be attending the funeral. I offered my condolences, asked if they needed any help, and went back to our home town. She died two days later. With each of these times, my husband seemed to realize what had happened.
These are just examples of the reactions of one person at different stages of dementia. You will have to decide if your loved one is capable of understanding and behaving appropriately.
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I agree that telling someone well into their dementia journey when they are peaceful and happy in their situation and have not seen the son in a long while is not a good idea. If they have been living in the same house and realize the relative is no longer there then of course they should be told once and should they remember later of course their questions should be answered. Under those circumstances if they are fairly mobile they should be given the opportunity to attend the funeral or spend a brief time at calling hours. In this particular case the family is at peace with their decision so they should leave well enough alone. One thing i might consider is taking photographs of the casket going into the church and the flowers and later when the headstone is set another picture. if this lady becomes aware her son has died she can be shown or given these pictures and a photo of him in life if she does not already have one in her room. A small book of memories might also be comforting depending on her cognition. I would do these things so that there is something availble to comfort her if she finds out by mistake. Is there a daughter in law who might visit and tell her or maybe a staff member could let something slip.
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I agree with all of the above answer the real question is What stage is your mother in if she too far into it then she may not remember. My mother is in the early stage and she could handle it. #2 Does your mother cry or show a lot of depression if so then don't even consider taking her there.
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My mom's younger sister died from dementia 6 months ago; not only did we not tell her about it, we also did not tell our dad. It would only exacerbate their confusion, dementia and depression. I'm sure someone disagrees with this but in our situation it was the best way to go. Neither has any short term memory and dad has difficulty being told repetitively that his brothers have all passed, which happened over 10 years ago. We try to live in the present and keep them content.
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That is good. It is, by far, the hardest words for a Mother to hear. Even if she were to forget 5 minutes later, why put her through that pain. Even 5 minutes is too much.
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I appreciate all the above answers. Indeed, I had no intention of telling the friend's mother myself. I am sorry I gave that impression. And I had no intention of pressuring them to do one thing or another. Lord knows this family has been under enough stress and emotional suffering. I just wanted to hear of your experiences in order to best help them in making their decision(s). ---Yesterday our friend's 2 dgts, his wife, and I visited our friend's mother in the NH. Our friend's wife requested a meeting with the NH's SW as well, and his wife asked me to go with them to help assess the situation in its entirety. I had not visited with the mother in some time and the wife wanted me to help assess the mother's current abilities and limitations. The short of it is that his mom was, calm, alert and in good spirits. She enjoyed visiting but was not processing very much at all, only a few short comments like about her hair, how good the food was (in the NH), and that she remembered that her son had commented (a few years ago) that he didn't like the blouse she was wearing yesterday. She's not rapidly declining but there is a significant change from half a year ago. The wife and dgts felt she might become overly stressed if she did understand any part of the news they'd considered imparting; or more likely, she'd be confused and continue to be confused and stressed if she had any recall of the funeral. They didn't want to risk that and saw no potential benefit since her overall processing was so poor. The younger dgt who is also an RN (as was her father, his mother, and this writer) then said, "Why put her through all this...to what benefit?...when Oma's soon going to be with Dad anyway?" So, they made the decision not to inform her of his passing at this time. I certainly concur and am so glad the family seems to be fully at peace with their decision.
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When my husband was in a nursing home in Florida his disc jockey brother died in IL. I debated weather to tell him or not, and finally decided I should. He was sad for about 5 seconds, then returned to normal. That's my experience.
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I was in this situation when we where told my brother was dying. I called my mother's doctor. She told me my mother had the right to say goodbye to my brother who sometimes she remembered. The doctor told me to give her Ativan 0.5mg before going to the hospital. My mother suffered from severe anxiety.
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My sister has the mind of a five year old and lives in a group home. When my father died, we did NOT take her to the wake or funeral; she said "that is too saddening" but she did want to attend the "party" (funeral breakfast) and she went from table to table telling everyone "my dad died" which was her own little way of coping with it. She did the grief work she was capable of doing.
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I don't think I would tell her. When my friend's father died, they told mom (with dementia) that he had passed away. Every day she would ask where he was and every day she learned for the first time that he was gone. It was heart wrenching for my friend, her caretaker and also grieving the loss of her dad, to console her mom every day. Several times a day.

My mom was in the hospital with end stage CHF, when my son was diagnosed with Leukemia. I did not tell her. She did not need to deal with her grandson's illness when she was so ill herself. I do not regret that decision.

My job for my dad with dementia is to answer his questions as honestly as I can without creating hurt and more confusion. I try to creatively change the subject and he forgets what we were talking about.

Ultimately it is the family's decision, but certainly you can offer help in whatever they decide. You seem to be a caring friend. I think it would be a very nice gesture to offer to take care of mom if they decide to bring her to the funeral.
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