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Any tips on helping my father in law remember his wife has died?


New member
Jun 3, 2021
Hello, this is my first post so forgive me if this has been covered elsewhere.
My father in law, 87, has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His wife died 7 years ago, and he was her carer. He never really moved through the grieving stages and always talked about her and how much he missed her. However, he now never uses her name unless he’s looking at old photographs, when he’s very in the moment. He now says he wants to change his will because he “doesn’t want to give money to the person he lives with never helps him, or talks to him, or does anything for him”. Because he is in every other way (mostly) as he has always been, I tell him that she has died - that she really loved him, and that they had a good life together. He doesn’t get upset but the realisation sort of washes over him. When he has these episodes he never uses her name, even when I ask him who he’s talking about - and when he talks about her there is a lot of anger there. Has anyone any ideas how I can help him with this ? I know it’s going to get worse - but I’m trying to help him while he’s still in the early stages. Thanks everyone.


Registered User
Mar 1, 2013
My father, my mothers carer died suddenly. She was taken to see him in his final hour, and again once he had actually passed away ( we were on route to the hospital- they called me but we didnt make it)

Even after all that, she was convinced ( after 60 years of marriage) he had left her for another woman ( Jenny, whoever Jenny was- we have no idea)

We just smoothed the day in which she lived, although it was desperately hard, and pretty much just agreed to do whatever she asked ( ''tell him to come home, its doesnt matter'') . By the next day she'd forget all about that, and asked how much longer he ws going to be doing the shopping?

There was no point in keep reminding her that he'd died- all it did was upset her. Why hadn't we told her?

its the hardest thing and something we just batted back with a suitable reply day after day

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
He now says he wants to change his will because he “doesn’t want to give money to the person he lives with never helps him, or talks to him, or does anything for him”.

Hello @Julia62

If you can distract your father in law, perhaps tell him you will make an appointment with the solicitor.

My husband was taking his wedding ring off and playing with it. I told him I would get it sized because he`d lost weight in his fingers and continued to tell him this every time he asked.

Keep on making those appointments with the solicitor if you can. I hope it will satisfy your father in law.


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
South coast
Im afraid that you are not going to be able to get him to remember that his wife has died and every time you remind him will be, to him, like it is the first time. He is not able to grieve, because he cannot hold it in his memory for long enough - people with dementia forget rather than grieve and it is best not to keep reminding him that she has died.
Can you come up with an excuse about why she is not there that will reassure him? If he complains about how long she is taking shopping, simply agree with him. If he wants to know why she is never there, then perhaps she might be visiting family/helping out with a new baby. Think about what would make sense to him.

With regard to the will, just say of course, you will book an appointment tomorrow (but dont actually do it, of course), distract him and say exactly the same next time.


Volunteer Host
Mar 2, 2017
My wife often talks about her dead relatives - her Mam, Dad, Gran and sometimes even her first husband - as though they are all still alive. She can see her gran's house from wherever she happens to be (currently her care home) and wants to go around for tea. I use unsophisticated ways of distracting her (a grunt, a change of subject) or just say that they are 'out today' and we can maybe go 'tomorrow'. Reminding her that they are all long dead might distress her and, even if she took this on board, could lead to all sorts of questions such as "why did you not tell me?" or details of their death and/or funeral. Then she would forget and the whole thing would begin again. There is nothing to be gained by reminding a person with dementia about things which they have forgotten. It will not help them and can lead carers into emotional issues that are better avoided.


New member
Jun 3, 2021
Thank you everyone. My father in law has been very stable in his memory for a few weeks - we think the medication is helping him to stay more in the present and for longer. He’s very very aware that he has Alzheimer’s and has become very engaged with his care - which is helping us all at the moment. The conversation about the solicitor stopped naturally and he hasn’t referred to his late wife as being alive either. I’m going to start a memory book with all his old pictures and add the descriptions that he tells me - his memory of the past is very strong (and always has been - far more than mine)!

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