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Question:
mom, with not too severe dementia, can’t remember that dad died 2 months ago. Memorial is in 5 weeks. The last 2 times I answered her honestly when she asked about dad, she responded like the news is brand new. Cried.


Should I keep telling her? It’s pretty hard to avoid when she asks to talk to him and see him. Should I give her the obituary to leave on her refrigerator? Other ideas?

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Every time you tell her she's hearing it for the first time. Think how devastating that is to a person. Stop telling her.

I'd say her not-too-severe dementia is more severe than you think if she isn't remembering Dad died. Do you think she can handle being at a memorial service if she'll have found out yet again that morning that he's gone? Maybe she shouldn't be there, but that's your decision.
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Lesliewd May 6, 2021
Thanks. Good thought.
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My FIL uaed to call.at 3am saying he couldn't find my MIL. My hubby would tell him she had died. FIL woul call my hubby a GD liar and hangup. 2 mins later the phone would ring, same conversation. 4th time, I would answer the phone and tell him she was visiting friends in Minneapolis and she'd be home tomorrow. It would satisfy him and he would go back to sleep.
So my advice is no. Dont keep telling her he's dead. Give her a logical place he might have gone when he was alive. It will be the kindest thing.
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I am sorry for your loss. May God bless you with grieving mercies and wisdom during this difficult time.

I would say that your mom has more severe dementia than you are acknowledging. She can't remember that her long term spouse died, think about this.

I would not keep telling her. She doesn't remember and experiencing the loss fresh every time is brutal.

Maybe distract her with answers like, mom, we already talked about this. Mom, let's go look at the new home we have been discussing for you.

I hope that she is not living alone. She really needs to have supervised care.
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disgustedtoo May 7, 2021
"...your mom has more severe dementia than you are acknowledging."

See my response to MJ1929.

Otherwise, yes, avoid telling her. Distract. Redirect focus. If she's insistent, responses should take into account what she is asking.

For instance, where is he? Could be working, picking up something at the store, playing cards with his buddies. Depends on what he used to do and perhaps time of day. Something plausible, that he might have been doing before. Make the excuse, then redirect, refocus onto something else, snack, cup of tea, Oh look at the bunny outside!
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It's a no win situation you have on your hands here, unfortunately. If you tell her that her husband died, she cries, as if it's brand new information she's hearing each time you tell her. If you tell her that her husband is off running an errand, she'll keep asking when he's coming home, if she's like my mother, who by the way has pretty ADVANCED dementia at play. My mother will NOT let the subject go about her dead relatives. She never, ever asks about her dead husband of 68 years who died 6 years ago, though, she could care less about him. It's her 'mama, papa and sisters' she's obsessed with these days.

Lately I've been telling my mother that her relatives are all deceased. Then she lets the subject go. If I tell her they're unavailable or busy, she keeps asking about them and wanting to call them on the phone/asking for their phone numbers to the point of insanity. So what's the 'right' answer? Who knows? Whatever you feel works best for YOU and your mother, that's the right answer.

What I find works best with my mother is when I tell her that her relatives are all with God in heaven, playing cards and drinking wine, awaiting her arrival and then they can all hang out together and have fun. It's just not her time yet, but when God is ready for her, THEN they can all reunite. I tell her they're all well and whole and fine again, happy and content in heaven. That seems to calm her down to know that they're at peace and not unhappy or in pain, you know?

Again, no easy 'one size fits all' answer, especially for those who won't let go of the endless questions. Sometimes the truth is easier to digest than constant stories that beg even MORE questions.
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Lesliewd May 6, 2021
Thank you. That was helpful.
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A friend of mine had this exact situation with her MIL. Each time they told her “he’s in Heaven” she’d cry… and ask again 10 minutes later. So, now he’s simply out.

”He’s at work.”
”He had to go to the store.”
”He’s busy.”

She’d still ask over and over but these answers kept her from getting upset.

I fear your mother’s dementia may be worse than you realize. It’s such a horrible, sneaky disease. I’m sorry.
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Lesliewd May 6, 2021
Thank you. This really helps me.
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If your mom doesn't remember that her husband died, then her dementia is more advanced then you think.
You should not keep telling her over and over. In fact, don't tell her again. Every time she hears it she will respond like she's hearing it for the first time. When she asks about him, do your best to deflect her attention onto something else. Ask everyone she sees to do the same and deflect.
If I were you, I wouldn't take her to the memorial service coming up either. Seeing a whole bunch of people offering her their condolences will be too much for her to handle. Too much for you to handle also.
Keep her home and maybe have some people visit. Let them know ahead of time not to offer their condolences to her and to change the subject if she mentions your father.
I had a homecare client who was married to her husband for 61 years. He died before her which was a surprise to everyone because she was pretty much invalid with dementia for several years.
She was brought to see him in hospice but really had no idea what was going on. She was told that he passed away and as you'd expect was very upset. She didn't remember a minute later why she was upset though. She would ask again and again and a few times we told her he died. She would then lose it and basically be a vegetable for several hours after. Yet she'd keep asking. It made the job of her caregivers even harder to get her to eat, take her meds, change her, wash her up, etc...
Finally us caregivers decided that when she would ask we'd tell her he fell and was still in rehab. Then say things like 'remember we brought you there to visit?' She'd then say 'yes' and this is what we did. I told her friends who were planning to come by ahead of time to tell her the same thing.
She was not at the funeral service. Her friends got rather upset with me for refusing to bring her. People who have never been caregivers to an invalid person with dementia have no idea what it entails to take a person like this out of the house. I asked them if they think they'd be able to manage changing a soiled diaper in a funeral home for someone who is unable to stand up even with assistance. They stopped being upset about her not going.
Don't take your mom to the memorial. If she keeps asking over and over again about your father tell her he's still in rehab. Also you don't have to keep answering the same question a hundred times a day too. It's okay if you don't answer every time.
You have my condolences about your father. I am sorry for your loss.
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lisah13 May 7, 2021
Spot on. People tend to judge our decisions when they haven’t been in our shoes. We do what’s best for our loved one and that’s all that matters.
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You will have to do this for the memorial if you choose to have your Mom go, but you don't have to do it otherwise. This is rather severe dementia, really. Once the memorial is done you won't have to "go there" unless your Mom does.
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BurntCaregiver May 6, 2021
AlvaDeer,

She should not take her mother to the memorial service.
God knows how she will react when people come up to her offering their condolences.
Getting that upset will be bad for her. Even if she doesn't remember why the physical effects of getting that upset can last for days. Better to not interrupt her daily structure and routine.
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Over the past 6 or so years of dementia, mom's memory went back in time to the point she was asking about deceased siblings as far back as 1976. It may be best to just tell her an "honest" fib. You have not seen him for a while or ask her when the last time she saw him. Hopefully the conversation will drift away.
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Lesliewd May 6, 2021
Very helpful. Thanks.
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I always think of dementia as something that once identified, impacts on the whole landscape of cognitive thought.

Whether the thought process is denial, or memory loss, or something else, if your mother is not latching on to the concept that her spouse is permanently missing, there is some process that is causing that thinking.

Leaving the obituary on the fridge, talking about his loss, taking her to the memorial service, all may cause her pain, or may not, but nothing is apt to restore her ability to relate to his death as a person would who has not experienced cognitive loss.

”Reminders” aren’t working, so if she’s more comfortable without them, stop attempting to provide them.

“I’m not sure where he is today” may work. If she’s anxious “I’m sure he’s fine”.

This is a painful and difficult time for you, and for her. Don’t expect yourself to solve this permanently or come up with a “good” response to her. Do your best to allow her to be comfortable as much as you can.
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If I were you I'd stop telling since she reacts with despair each time she hears the news. It is probably like be stabbed each time she hears it and since she can't remember, what good does it do you or her? I would opt for some of the convenient "fibs" mentioned previously 'he's at work, he's playing cards at Joe's" and see how she reacts to that.

I'm certainly not a member of the medical profession but it think your Mom's dementia is a lot more advanced than you think. You might want to think about taking her to a memorial service. How does she currently react in a group of people? At a memorial service she may be approached by people some of whom may be wearing masks due to the pandemic, -- will this frighten her? And she will hear once again the news that her husband is dead.

Wishing you luck and peace on this journey.
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