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Conversation (or lack thereof)


Registered User
Oct 2, 2013
My mum has reached the stage where forming coherent sentences is increasingly difficult, and I'm finding it really hard to hold a conversation with her, particularly over the phone (as I live a good 2 hours away from my parents, but try to phone regularly). I don't live a particularly exciting life, and I'm not good at making small talk at the best of times, so there are often awkward silences - last night Mum handed the phone back to my dad as she assumed the phone was broken. I try to engage her and get her talking about whatever she's been up to, but I find it almost impossible to do so without confusing her further - even a few weeks ago when Dad prompted me to ask about the books she'd bought while they were out earlier that day (I don't think she can read properly anymore, but she does still enjoy a nice picture, so childrens' books or books on art are very much appreciated) she got confused and asked me about the books I'd bought (I hadn't, but I made some up to save further confusion/embarrassment)
Any advice? I feel like such a failure as a daughter, especially considering that my dad, nan, grandad, aunt, brother and even my husband all seem to be able to talk to her without too much awkwardness. I feel like there must be something wrong with me - even when I do have something to talk about, it all just tails off into silence as I realise she's hardly followed a word I've said. I know I can't expect her to remember much, but is there any way to get a proper two-way conversation going again? Or is that another thing I took for granted that is now lost forever?


Registered User
Jul 14, 2014
North East
I know the feeling. My Dad is losing the ability to speak and when I visit him I babble on for a bit then run out of things to say so have awkward silences and boredom. However I don't beat myself up too much as the fact that I hace spent some time with him is the most important thing. X

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Canada
When my mother was at that stage, I would just babble on about my shopping, gardening (as Mum had been a keen gardener), the cats, basically ordinary day to day life. I would only touch on work very tangentially, as I felt details wouldn't mean much to her. It was hard to tell what she understood but I tried to keep up a cheerful chat and not expect much response.


Registered User
Jan 19, 2011
North East England
I'm the same - I tend to ask questions even though I know she won't remember the answer so this is not a good thing to do. Like - have you had your tea/where have you been today, etc. I find it almost impossible to talk to her without doing this and I get so frustrated with myself and berate myself for not handling things better.

But we're only human, and it's very difficult. You are not alone.


Registered User
Jan 30, 2009
I used to try to talk about the past and in particular things that mum did, she lost the ability to realise that there was anything she could talk or think about other than herself. You are not a failure, it is really hard, you are keeping going so providing support to both your parents.
Mum eventually stopped wanting to talk to me on the phone, she retained an interest in other more exciting people, her friends seemed more relevant to her than me. I sometimes got the idea she wasn't quite sure why I was ringing her as I was her child, therefore I must be somewhere in the house with her....in retrospect I think she found that very confusing.
Please don't take it personally. I thought phone calls became very difficult.


Registered User
Jun 4, 2012
Strangley enough, I have just noticed that my mum is losing the ability to have a conversation. I visit her in the care home regularly and I end up having to babble on and on and on, and run out of things to say so end up talking about years ago and old times which get a reasonable response.

Mum doesn't chat much at all now and mostly just listens. I think I am quite boring as often she nods off mid conversation. I sometimes talk about what is happening in the newspapers or magazines but that does not go down well as she has no idea who is who any more and what is what.

I miss the days when we could have endless cups of tea and put the world to rights and have a good natter and catch up on gossip, those days all long now.

Just wanted to say, keep on trying to stimulate your mum and keep your chats going if you can because I am sure you brighten up her day any way. xxxx


Registered User
Sep 17, 2010
queenquackers, I'm also a distant daughter relying on 'phone calls to make contact and finding it increasingly difficult to get any response out of Mum. Often I think I'm making Mum feel uncomfortable because she really can't work out how to handle a 'phone call now. She doesn't know how to manage the mechanics of it (where to place her ear, where to place her mouth), she can't manage conversations even when they're face to face and she doesn't understand signals now (eg repeated versions of "goodbye" don't inform Mum the 'phone call is coming to an end).

I feel at least I know I tried very hard to keep our relationship going. The fact it's not working is just something to accept, much though I hate it.


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
South coast
Mum is much worse when I talk to her on the phone than when I talk to her face to face. I think she is losing the understanding that there is actually another person on the other end and she is talking into the phone, rather than to me. I just get snippets of words and phrases rather than anything like a conversation. Its very sad.


Registered User
Jan 29, 2013
South Wales
It's much more difficult to converse on the phone. Mum lost the ability about 18 months ago, she'd put the phone down and wander off, I'd be yelling down the phone for her to pick it up and end up waiting for the carers to put it back on the hook when they visited. :eek: She alsostopped recognising it ringing and it would take 3-4 attempts for her to pick it up.

Despite this I was still able to have a basic conversation with her face to face (about when she was young, family members etc) up until Xmas. I think visual cues help. Now she is only really able to answer simple questions that have a yes/no response. I still babble on about the cats, the garden, what I'm making for supper etc (the same conversation over and over - daffodils are coming up, planted some bluebells ........)

So don't feel bad, the phone makes it a lot more difficult and you are not a failure.


Registered User
Oct 18, 2013
British Isles
Hi queenq - just a thought, might it be possible to get your father to go online with a device that uses Skype? If so you could set up a call with him and then he could get your mother talking to you face to face. I noticed that my Mum found it increasingly difficult to cope with phone calls, even when I had picked it up and explained a friend was calling she just didn't want to talk into the device.

Seeing your face would probably really help your mother with the communication and it would also help you to judge her reaction to what you are saying.


Registered User
Oct 2, 2013
Thanks for all the advice and reassurance everyone. Thinking about it, Mum does usually find face-to-face conversations easier (I think I mentioned that my husband was able to talk to her when we visited over Christmas - being much more into science than I am, he was able to get her talking about all the tests she used to conduct while working as a chemical analyst for a supermarket chain back in the late 80s, but he hardly ever talks to her over the phone). Gigglemore, we did try Skyping a few months ago so that (in theory) Mum and Dad could both listen to me and both have an opportunity to talk without awkward handing-over, but Mum kept twisting away from the screen (she's never been particularly confident with computers, and kept trying to get 'out of the way' so that Dad could 'carry on') and very rarely spoke while Dad was there to explain what they'd been up to - even when he found some pretext to leave the room for a few minutes she'd still sit there looking bewildered. I think she was probably a bit freaked out by the tinny, echo-y quality of my voice over the computer speakers - maybe I should persuade my dad to invest in a good-quality sound system :) Thanks anyway.


Registered User
Jan 8, 2015
Your not a failure, its hard to know what to say sometimes. I've learnt that you do a lot of talking to yourself...lol!! don't worry you get used to it and noone is going to tell you your silly. Just remember she is still your mum underneath all of it. If she asks you questions that you've asked her then just respond. I talk about the most random stuff to my mum, the weather, the garden, my friends who she cant remember, anything that she may listen to. There will be little bits that she holds onto and you'll hold onto them to. Take each day as it comes, trust me that's how i am getting through.
Cheryl x