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Mom has dementia and is in a memory care facility, she remembers me and my husband and kids and her sons and wife and kids. She thinks her husband, my dad is alive as well as her parents and her sisters. She still thinks she has her house and her life is as it was 25 years ago. And that she just played golf yesterday. She was in ALF for 6 months then moved to memory care and has been there for 9 months. It seems like everything I can talk to her about is off limits, they are either dead or she doesn't live there anymore. It's a struggle to find things to talk about. And I avoid anything that I may have to lie to her about. I told her once my dad had passed away and she cried for 2 hours. I will never do that again. Every visit is a challenge. We can only talk about the kids, weather, etc so much. Sometime she acts like she can't hear me and I have to repeat myself over and over again to until I find my self yelling at her. She is not hard of hearing, I think it is more that she is not concentrating on what I am saying and can't process it so she says 'I can't hear you'. I am kind of at my wits end. Every conversation is a struggle. I have tried talking about the past, but it always leads to me having to tell her a lie to keep from upsetting her. Any suggestions?

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I let my mom talk about whatever she wants to talk about, even if it doesn't make sense. Sometimes she'll ask about my husband, my kids, grandson or the puppy. Sometimes she'll ask about one of them and that's it. It's hard, I miss our conversations..
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I learned never to start a conversation with "Do you remember" or "Remember when" or even just "Remember." Instead I'd say, "I remember a time when ..." and then tell a memory from childhood. Often it was clear that Mother didn't remember the event at all but she got a kick out of hearing the story. And the stories she seemed to like best I could repeat another time -- for her it would be new again. Like Max, I tried to often mention things she was good at.

I tried asking questions about her past. This might be useful in some cases, but it wasn't with my mother. "Ma, did you churn butter as a child?" "Well, we must have. That is what people did then. But I don't remember who did at our house." She had a general sense of history but not her personal history.

I often brought a prop on my visits. A big bag of coins for her to sort. A basket of socks for her to match up. The beads from the craft room for her to sort by color. Coloring pages for us to both color. She loved cook books and looking through them gave me a chance to tell her what a good cook she was.

I think more important than the subject or content is the attention and the affirmation that the person with dementia is a worthy person to talk to.
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My grandmother had dementia that went on for years and in the year before she passed she remembered very few people or things that happened in the past 30 or so years. She knew me and my voice, but started to mix me into stories from long before I was born. She did not remember any of my other cousins. I think this was because I called her at least weekly, so I stayed fresh in her memories (if that is possible). I would let her lead the conversations for most of the part and I would agree with her even if it was not true. I would ask her about happy stories she had told me before and I would sometimes ask her about her favorite, colors, food, trips, etc. She was prone to going negative, so I would agree with her and then tell her something like "ok, make sure to lock the door, then they won't be able to get in." Then I would talk about how she was such a good cook or how well she could sew. This would get her going in another direction, I would sometimes be on the phone for hours. Towards the end of her life, her mind was more scattered and she would not be able to go on for very long. She would sometimes have moments of clarity and she would always tell me that she was going to die soon and that I should not cry and that I should be happy for her. But I digress, a new study I heard about said that there was no benefit to trying to make a person with dementia "aware" of things and that it only caused more confusion and upset, and it did not help to slow the progression of the dementia. When I heard about the study, it validated my feelings about how I talked with my grandmother, because she only ever seemed hurt or confused when I tried to "correct her memories". Who's to say they were wrong any way, maybe she liked them the way they were.
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I try to go with stories about the grandkids, nieces and nephews. Ive friended distant cousins on Facebook and i show her pictures of their grandkids, too. It's hard, and sad. Kudos to you for keeping up with it.
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One day when I was desperate I googled "conversation starters", after a little reading I was able to come up with several pretty good ideas. Another strategy we used when we visited my aunt was to try to visit in twos or more, that way we could talk amongst ourselves and were company for her even if she couldn't participate.
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