Should parent with dementia be told that spouse has died?

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Every time I visit he asks and when told, he does not remember, he cries.

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If a spouse has recently died they have the right to say good bye. I had this issue with my brother. I called my mother's Geritrician who told me this. She also added at the time she would of given my mother Ativan to decrease the agitation. By brother got better after a couple of days. I have an aunt my mother's sister who lives in assisted living. Her husband died shortly after my mother in 2011. She attended my mother's funeral in July and her husbands in September. There are times she will remember he died and times she thinks he is alive and she is told one of her children are with him. This makes her happy. I will visit and she will ask me where is my mother. White lies are ok. I always tell her my mother has a cold and didn't want to make you sick. She is ok with this answer. The best think is not to agitate them. You may want to honestly tell the truth. It is not necessary for them to live the pain over again. A gentle approach is always best. Dementia they won't remember and to decrease there anxiety should be the goal. I took care of my mother for 12 years and I would do it again. A good geriatrician old person doctor could help by cleaning up her medication and can help with medication for behaviors. Regular MD do not know how to treat an older person. I can say this I worked in a geriatric facility for 32 years and I have seen how patients have been medicated it is a disgrace. Sometimes slowly cleaning up there medication slowly. You sometimes see a different person. Good luck!
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Not remembering doesn't hold true for some. My mother can remember more than I care for her to at times. That cannot be taken for granted. I made the mistake of slipping up and mentioning my father passed. She STILL remembers that to this day. She doesn't grieve any more. But I was so angry at myself for thinking she wouldn't remember.
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No, because they can't remember, Each time you tell them they go into the grief process for a time and then forget. It just isn't a good idea.
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Love the bowl analogy or I think of it as the 'rabbit hole", rabbit can run and disappear and up running again. Out of sight out of mind. I think deflection is the best way to handle deaths in general. At this point if she thinks of deceased one as alive. I just say they are doing great and they said hi! I so dislike when families try to have their loved ones remember the year they died and tell them "don't you remember?", telling them they went to heaven (which does always work, one lady got worked up and said the person should have went to hell, must admit that was a funny awkward moment) it is upsetting to try to elude to dates or years and when the visit is over they are left puzzled. I have been there on many occassions where they are left talking about it to themselves, caregivers, or to any one who listens and go into a depression because they grieve all over again. If they insist the deceased person is alive just go with it and change the subject to some pleasant place. I do and it works every time for the people in my mother's home.
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Ruth1957 - great answer about once around the bowl!! I agree with the answers that say tell the person once, then distract/divert in the future. Why make the person cry over and over when there's nothing they can do and it only makes them sad? I see no purpose in that kind of information.
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I love all the answers. As usual, I've got something to say. It's the goldfish analogy. I find the short-term memory of Dementia like a goldfish. Once around the bowl and it's a new day. So I take my clients "once around the bowl". To the "Where's mom?" question I reply "You're looking for your mom. I can tell you love your mom. I can sure appreciate that; I'm a mom myself. What's your favorite thing about her?" and as they talk, I take a hand or arm and we start to walk. I chime in with - "Hey. I feel like a cup of tea. Let's go share one - what do you say?" And that completes the trip around the bowl.
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When I visit my mother in a NH she occasionally says "is dad here?". No, not right now and she forgets it. He passed 15 years ago. This has been my dilemma in some ways. My mother obsesses about buying a lovely big house and having live in staff (servants/slaves, for free of course). Delusions of grandeur and it's impossible so I just say we'll talk about it when you can walk, which she never will.

My folks had elderly friends (the men were in the British Royal Navy in WWII). Frank was in poor shape physically but his mind was sharp and Pat had dementia but Frank managed to keep things together. Frank passed away in hospital at age 95, leaving Pat, 92, in their house.

In her dementia she was a danger to herself and others and eventually the situation filtered down to APS. APS went to her house and said they'd take her to see Frank. Once off the property she was apprehended and taken to a NH. We visited and eventually she said Frank had died. I don't know if staff told her or she figured it out by herself. Last time we saw her she was happy and getting around well on a cane. Do we tell? I guess it depends on the circumstances.
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Forcing people with dementia or Alzheimer's to live in this world is cruel. Why tell your dad over and over that his wife is dead. Every time you tell him he experiences the death for the first time. I'm with the others who suggested that you tell him she's home with a cold or she had some things to do. There's no reason to keep telling him over and over. It's very hurtful.
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I had to go through the same kind of issue with my father.. He has moderate dementia and lives in an assisted living facility.. His daughter , my sister was diagnosed with throat cancer last summer.. I did tell my father once only the bad news.. He became very sad and wondered what he could do to help.. He looked so sad when the news was told, he looked worried and heart broken. He of course does not remember any of this news the next time I visited him and I did not feel like I had to repeat it.... I did "my duty" and I told him once, I'm not going to make him sad over and over again...... The good news is my sister who went through chemo and radiation is now officially in remission!
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Why don't you just say the parent is home ill with a cold? Make up an excuse or use the same one since your father cannot remember.
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