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I need your ideas and advice on how to handle my father's death. I've been going back and forth on what to do - so would appreciate all comments to help my thinking.

My mother has dementia for the past 15 years, from a head injury she sustained. She is able to learn and remember some new things - like her new cat's names and my husband's name - whom she did not know before her injury. But it is hard to predict what she can remember.

Both of my parents have lived with my husband and myself for the last 9 years in Japan. Dad frequently traveled back to the US - to see his doctors and friends. During his last trip, he took ill and died. Since these trips to the US are fairly common, we've gotten into a routine of keeping Mom calm. So when she asks where Dad is - we typically tell her - Dad is shopping, or out walking or on the computer checking his email. Mom typically accepts these answer and then goes on with other things. We use the method of distracting her frequently, as if we told her Dad was in the US - then she gets angry that he did not take her.

So the advice I need - do I tell her about my father's death ? And more importantly, do I take her back to the US for the funeral ? She is 79 years old and prior to her injury, was quite the world traveler - very use to flying. However, I notice that since her dementia, she is stressed when put into environments that are not familiar to her. So I expect that flying will cause her some stress - even if my husgand and myself are with her.

I do feel it is best to tell her, as they were married for over 60 years and at some level, she should know. Since she can remember selective things - I am wondering if I should take her to the funeral - which will be at Arlington National Cemetry. I think this could be something she might remember. But then again - I have no way of knowing.

After the funeral, my curent thinking is to use the same strategy, that if she asks about Dad - meaning she does not remember he died - then we keep telling her he is out. That way - she doesn't have to re-live the grief.

Should I take her to the funeral ?

Should I tell her that he died ?

Many thanks for your comments.

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This is a heart-breaker. My mom had dementia when my dad died, and I had to tell her repeatedly that he died. I think she knew on some level, but she just couldn't accept it, even though she was in the room when he passed. Every day she would say, "Did he really die?" And yes, she did go to the funeral. We helped her with the cards, and she received Dad's flag.

Your situation is much more complicated. It will be painful, but I think your mother has a right to know. She will be confused, and the trip will be hard on her, but she also has a right to be at his funeral if you can at all manage it. The funeral may make it more real to her, also.

I even struggled with telling Mom that Dad was going on hospice, but the hospice people wisely told me that she absolutely needed to know (I knew she would immediately think death). And they were right. It was hard, but sometimes we have to do tough things, and boy this is one of them.

You have a good heart and want to do the right thing. And there's no perfect answer. You are the one who knows your mom and the situation best. But my feeling is that she needs to be told (maybe repeatedly), and if possible, attend the funeral.

Carol
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As a former nurse I would tell her that he died and leave it up to her if she wants to go to the funeral- but be aware she probably will not remenber that he died most of the time and it will be a constant problem her asking about but m you need to do what in your heart is best for both of you-only you can decide and then after you make a decision-you know you did what you thought was best and do not second guess yourself.
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My mother is aware that her husband, my dad, is gone. She often still cries about him and he died in 1982. She wanted pictures of him when he was young and in his military uniform. She tells me frequently that she misses him.

I don't think your mother will remember that your dad has died. Traveling from Japan to the US may be more than she is capable of enduring at 79. I would check with her primary physician to see if she is able to fly. If you do decide to make the trip, inform the airlines of her age and condition so they can accomodate you getting on and off the plane and with seating. Arrange for a skycap to meet your flight so she won't have to walk long distances.

When my uncle died, his older brother kept asking where "Mama and Papa were and why weren't they at LeRoy's funeral." Of course, his parents had been dead for decades. I don't think your mother would be aware of why you are at the funeral and who the funeral is for. I would spare her this information.

Instead, I would get her some photos of your dad. If she doesn't have one, start a photobook that she can look at when she asks about him. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss and at this point in her life, I would let her have the bliss.

My condolences on the loss of your father.

Julie Q
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Oh my god, this is a tough one. I have a friend, whose mother has dementia. Her father died and her mother was told and did go to the funeral. Afterwards, she constantly asked my friend, where her husband is. She did not remember he died, and when my friend reminds her, she just relives the grief over and over again. She wishes, she didn't tell her now, but I think you need the advice of one of the professionals from this site. Sorry about your Dad.

Marylynne
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I am so sorry about your dad, My dad died in may he had dementia also he could not remember his parents passing away along time ago. Every time he would ask where mom was , I thought he ment my mom not thinking he ment his. well when we told him she died a long time ago , he would get upset and relive the grief and was angery for a while . so I would talk to a professional. It all depends on what you and your husband can handle, You are the ones that have to be her support after the fact. Well best wishes .But one thing You have to live with whatever you choose to do . so think about that. if you don't tell her will you be able to live with that choice later when your mother is not here. so think of all things you will have to endure. I know it was hard to see my dad go through that each time. but I felt he needed to know .just remember no matter the choice it will be hard, but you will get through it. take care

Sherry
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I agree with creating a memory album. Research shows that this kind of mourning helps.

I believe in telling the truth.

I also think that those with dementia most need their routines and travelling might not be a good thing.

My father was angry, after mom died. No one told him what happened. He had delirium at the time, and was quite wicked. He didn't remember anything. Your mom has a right to the truth!
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I don't envy your situation. Naomi's Feil's Validation methods might be useful for you now. If I can paraphrase, it's not generally a good idea to lie to someone with dementia, because on some level inside they know you're lying. On the other hand, it's also not a good idea to re-traumatize the person whenever they ask about someone who died. I think perhaps your mom should be told about your dad's death and allowed to go through her own intense mourning period - once - with you and any other close family members there. Maybe her mourning period on the conscious level will only last a few minutes or maybe she will remember - it sounds like you're not sure. I honor you for struggling to find the best option for her.

Would it be an option for you to set up a small community memorial service for your dad there, after you get back from the funeral? Then your mom could get whatever she can out of the service, but be saved from the difficult trip.

In the future, though, there's no point in sending her into fresh grief whenever she asks about him. If you can get away without lying, it's best. When she asks where he is, sometimes you can put the question back on her: "It's 2:30, Mom. Where do you think Dad would be at 2:30?" or "Today is Monday. What day did Dad's bowling league meet?" Another strategy that can work at times is taking her question as an indicator that she's thinking about him and wants to talk about him. The "validation" response in this case would be to spend time asking her about him, drawing out whatever she's feeling/ thinking about him at that moment.

These are just some possible strategies. In the long run, you know your mom best, and there's not going to be any perfect answer that'll make this easy for you. Good luck!

~ Linda
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i pray you will make the right discision about telling your mother about the death of her husband.and i pray God eill comfort you. My experience with my mother ,has alzheimers sister dieded three months ago. She went to the funeral and during the 3 minute remarks she asked me to say something abouth my aunt on her behalf ,because she felt she couldnt get the words right,wow that surprised me because I thought she was in one of her state of no recognition.Make a long story short,she had forgotten that we had traveled to the funeral and buried her sister. Now at times she asks I wonder how her sister is doing.I tell her she is with god because she passed away,and I she will see her one day.She said I know'. I used to say I don't no ,she's probably resting.She accepted my answere.I felt better better about finally telling her the truth. You will know what to say when the time presents itself.God bless
Rose1
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Dear Everyone - it is so helpful to read your thoughts and ideas. I appreciate the quick responses. There are some really good suggestions here = that I will definitely incorporate.

Here is what I have decided to do:

1. I will tell my mother tonight that Dad is gravely ill and is not expected to make it. I will observe how she reacts and then take my cues from that.

2. It is early evening now, so I will see how she is in the morning. If she remembers (probably not) or how she reacts a second time with the news. If she is consistent in her reaction - then I have a good idea of what direction to go in.

Will keep you posted on the progress.
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I'm sorry to hear of your dilemma, I was wondering would taking a picture of the his gravestone help?
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