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In the past year, it has become nearly impossible to have a normal conversation due to mom's memory loss.

When I visited yesterday, I brought a photo album from when I was an infant and young child. She didn't know who I was or many of the other people, but once I told her, she started to "remember". She always knew who the cats were even though they've been gone many years.

I have no hope of having a normal conversation again but I imagine bringing old pictures or albums will work better than anything else at this point and she seemed happy to look at them.

What do you do?

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Exactly what you're doing. It my case it's my Dad with dementia. He's pretty much living in the moment but like lots of people with dementia he still has some long term memory. Pictures or old year books are great for him. He may remember someone in the yearbook and then tell me some stories about some hunting adventure in 1946. I've learned how to prompt him and keep him on track and I've heard lots of the stories MANY times but that's ok, he's happy.
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My mom reads the newspaper at least once a day. She tends to do this when my sisters are with her, but not with me. They say she follows the stories and asks intelligent questions or makes sensible remarks.

I'm her scrapbook daughter and she loves looking at the pictures.

Other than the scrapbooks, I talk about my memories. I never say, "Remember when ...?" I say "I remember ..." The other day I read the menu board and told her that there would be "mini corn dogs" for lunch. Then I went on, "I used to love it when you made corn dogs, which we called pronto pups." She looked puzzled and I knew she didn't remember it. I went into detail about how and why she started that, Dad's role, what us kids thought of getting home-made corn dogs, etc. etc. I don't think she ever remembered it but she seemed very pleased with the story and to know that her kids liked her cooking. There is often something that provokes a memory in me that I share with her.

What I try to communicate is "You are loved. You were loved all your life. You are a good person." I don't use those words, but that is almost always the message.

We now color together. She was doing a picture of lilacs and that me talk about "the farm" where she grew up, always a good topic for her.
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I look at photos with my mom. We also sing from the song books she used as a choir director. Many times she starts out of tune but after awhile it comes back and she remembers the songs. I feel sorry for the staff who can hear me because singing is not my gift! ☺
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I tried to keep my mom focused on positive memories and thoughts, and often brought my little dog to visit her, which she loved. We looked through family photo albums many times and talked over her own family history. A week before she died, I sat on the edge of her bad and said, "Mom, I forgive you for all the times you hurt me. Do you forgive me for the times I hurt you?" She squeezed my hand several times and gave a nod. That was pretty much our last conversation and I'm so glad we had that moment together.
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I try to talk about people he knew as he was in politics, but I never ask "do you remember", I talk about everyday events but I never talk about things I know will upset him. For example his barber passed away last week. He was retired and hexand his sin owned the shop, but the father only cut hair Friday and Saturday, so I would take dad on those days for his haircut. He used to get his hair cut every 2 weeks. Yesterday I looked at him and it had been a month since I last took him. Knowing the son would be working, I never mentioned the death of his barber. Dad forgot all about it and never questioned why he was going on Thursday and didn't miss his garber not being there. Why mention it to him? I pick and choose what I talk about to him so as not to make him aware of his shortcomings. I see weekly the change in his memory. I just want him to feel as nirmal as pissible.
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You are doing well! Conversation can get difficult and repetitive I know! I have tried a few other things too... mostly to help ME remain sane and interested.... but they have turned into real interests for Mum. She used to be interested in Australian History (we are Aussies!)... so I found some wonderful history mags and DVD's about our history and I read them to her and we talk about different aspects and how we feel about things that happened (eg Convicts etc)... then I track down DVD's and picture books that we pore over. Actually great fun and quite interesting. We read the newspaper together in the mornings and discuss different items (Mum's sight is failing too). Is your parent interested in anything? Cards? (You can play Patience, Pairs etc. together). Mum is enjoying things she would NEVER have done previously... going for walks and feeding the ducks. Feeding the birdlife around her home, putting together scrapbooks of interesting articles/old family photos and great animal photos we find.Going for drives and having a cuppa -exploring! It's all forgotten so quickly... but living in the moment is good for our souls too don't you think? Mum is losing her language too..... but the HEART remembers. If she enjoyed her child rearing days, take her to the park where children play; if nature is her passion... to beautiful gardens. Keep life interesting and enjoyable for yourself too... and your JOY will bless her dear old heart!! Keep up the good work! Have fun!
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Yes, these are wonderful answers.

I think it is the children who have to cope with the loss of a parent who remembers their childhood - parents are people in their own right, not our nurturers forever. I once was determined to stand up to my mother, to "finally" hold my ground, about something unkind she had done to my sister. I won the argument and felt so good - but when my mother died a month later, that "real" communication I had craved for much of my life - suddenly seemed out of place - I had not realized that she was so ill.

I carry that memory with me to remind me - and it has been helpful in the years that I've done elder-care - it's not about my needs any more, except as I can fulfill them by my actions of making time to visit, joyfully fit in some gladness for small bits of humor or insight that comes up just by chance, if I make time to spend with them, quietly. They can nurture me, but in very brief moments.

Elders have needs, not for just health care, though those are important and they do need people to watch and anticipate. But they also value connections now, they do pick up on our wish to visit them, to care to see them, spend time with them - and as long as there is flexibility and clarity and repetition with a topic, they can enjoy it briefly.

That lasts no more than a couple of hours, when they are glad to see us go, for they are tired. Then they are glad to see us again.

With photos - it REALLY helps to have names written nearby - in big letters! I too don't remember peripheral people in photos, even if they were very important to me and my family growing up. Being with elders is a gift, if we can seek and enjoy the process of slowing down, not worrying about what they remember - then we find they tell us memories we often knew nothing about!
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Pictures from their childhood may work better than pictures from yours. What we are seeing is that my MIL basically only has memories of the town in which she was born and raised. She seems to think that everyone she knows is/was part of that world. Much of what she says does not make sense but some of her childhood memories are still there.

Your presence communicates that someone - and she may or may not know who you are - cares about her. My MIL introduces me as a lot of different people in her life - the important thing is that she gets excited and happy that "someone she knows" is visiting her. That is a lot to communicate to someone with dementia.
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Sometimes it is what it is and we just have to accept it whether we like it or not. This was the experience with my surrogate dad who was living in a slum and renting from a slumlord. I kept warning him about it for years, especially when something went wrong like one of the utilities periodically going off when the slumlord didn't take the rent money and pay the bills to the included utilities. For years I warned him that he better get out of there because if he did and if something was going to happen sometime that was going to force him out. Of course he didn't listen for the most part, and eventually something did happen. What happened is APS showed up one morning unexpectedly and moved him to a better place. He really wasn't there very long before being placed on the Alzheimer's wing of a nursing home where he must spend the rest of his life. Every so often he did return to normal where we could have a normal conversation, but that was the only time I could really carry on a reasonable conversation with him. When they return to dementia mode, I noticed that they can become very verbally combative. This always happen if I was away from dad for too long, even if I was just running an errand for us. The longer I was away from him like say overnight, the worse he seemed to get. I'm not sure what went through his mind, but it seems like if you spend a lot of time with someone you love that maybe they think you're not coming back when really you are. This is only a guess since no one really knows what really goes through their minds. You may agree that carrying on a normal conversation when they're in dementia mode can actually be impossible depending on the severity. From my experience with dad, I found it helpful to just wait for him to return to normal. What was especially hard is dealing with those dementia episodes where he got a little out of hand. What I found helpful though was just knowing when to leave by knowing when I've had enough. Remember, this was my surrogate dad, so I was not real family though I still love him as though he were family because family is not always blood. It's not always easy to be around our loved ones with dementia, and if you've never dealt with it before, it's a learning process that only comes from experience.
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I brought my mom a photo album too yesterday and just like you I found if I triggered her memory she remembered. She is in a fog, her brain is stuck she needs someone to pull her out because she is sinking. Being swallowed up by quicksand, and withdrawing farther and farther into herself. Into a dark, quiet private world where she will never come back from. I wish I could make it stop.
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