What do you say to your Mother, who has dementia, when one of her children passes away? - AgingCare.com

What do you say to your Mother, who has dementia, when one of her children passes away?

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Mom has dementia and is in nursing home. My sister Joann passed away at age 48 and we were weren't sure if we should tell her about it. Sister's husband Anthony finally told mom that Joann died and was cremated. Mom cried about it then asked if she could see her now. She didn't understand that this happened several months ago. Yesterday she asked if we had talked to Joann lately because she had a dream that Anthony told her Joann died and was cremated. Should we re-confirm that Joann is gone or just let it go. Its just heartbreaking for us.

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My Mom is always asking where my father is, when is he coming to get her, etc. After telling her he died 5 years ago and upsetting her every time, I have taken up to telling her he's gone on a big fishing trip over to his favorite coastal town and that he will be back in a few days. Seems to work. Plus she doesn't cry. She won't remember the answer for 3 minutes anyway, why upset her? Come up with a likely story for why the relative is MIA and tell her that. By telling the truth, you are intentionally hurting her, for no gain because she won't remember what you said; it just makes her sad in the moment.
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You could say it in a calmer way, such as "Mary" went away for a while." Hopefully, since she has dementia, she won't remember to ask when "Mary" is returning.
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Thanks to all for your answers/comments to my question. I guess there really is no definitive answer - at least an easy one. But it is comforting to know that I am not alone in this journey and that every day hundreds of us are facing these types of issues with our aging parents. Hugs to all.
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Firstly I'm sorry for your loss. I have no experience of this and am reluctant to advise you. I would only say something if she asks you directly and then just be very matter of fact if you can manage it, then change the subject. If you think you're going to get upset, then just say she's gone on a long trip and you don't know when she'll be back.
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I'm not sure my dad kept remembering that my mom had passed away; know he started calling me her and I just let it go, though at the end, as they often do, he seemed to know again in the sense of wanting to go to her
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Very difficult question, and a judgment call. My dad died last August 23rd and mom saw his body laid out and attended the memorial service, including arrangements. The reality of his death drifts in and out, and she will repeatedly ask for confirmation. For her, because finances are a key issue in his death, she has a strong need to know. I feel that she becomes more anxious and upset in that surreal world of hallucination and memory loss. She is still trying to hang on to reality no matter how painful.
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I would say, "mum, if you'd moved into a nursing home much sooner, this would not have happened". Sad but true, demented parents often outlive the child who is caring for them. I personally know of cases where that has happened.
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My mom asked about her brother who passed away years ago. And then would be upset when I told her he died; and become anxious. So when she talked about him, I'd just let her and when she asked if I'd seen him, I'd just say "no I haven't and I haven't heard from him"; lets go get an ice cream... and then she'd move on to another topic. I felt it was better to avoid the upset and not make her sad.

Depends on how bad the dementia is. If it is hurtful to you still, then by all means, don't tell her she died. You can always do so once you are up to it later and it doesn't matter anyway unless she is begging to see your sister and that makes her anxious.
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The truth! If she finds out later that you didn't tell her, she could, quite likely, be upset.
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She should be told. Over and over, if necessary. She deserves to know and to be allowed to grieve in her own way.
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