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Do I tell Mum that Dad has died?

blueorchid

Registered User
Feb 18, 2016
52
Hi,
My Dad died 4 weeks ago and in the hours after his death she was taken into a Care Home. This has meant that she has not seen her family since before he died - I've not seen her since January. The only people she has been in contact with have been the care home staff.

One of the members of staff advised me to be honest with Mum if she asked about Dad and to tell her that Dad had died. The care home are finally allowing visitors and I can see Mum this weekend for 15 minutes. She may not ask about Dad. But if she does I don't feel comfortable lying to her.

However I only have 15 minutes, I can't offer her any comfort as we won't be able to hug. She is mild to moderate according to her care needs assessment but this still means that she will forget what I've said afterwards but if she's upset that's going to stay with her. I suspect you're going to tell me to lie. I can't shake the feeling that this is wrong and that I'm patronising her.

B.
 

Palerider

Registered User
Aug 9, 2015
1,944
North West
Hi,
My Dad died 4 weeks ago and in the hours after his death she was taken into a Care Home. This has meant that she has not seen her family since before he died - I've not seen her since January. The only people she has been in contact with have been the care home staff.

One of the members of staff advised me to be honest with Mum if she asked about Dad and to tell her that Dad had died. The care home are finally allowing visitors and I can see Mum this weekend for 15 minutes. She may not ask about Dad. But if she does I don't feel comfortable lying to her.

However I only have 15 minutes, I can't offer her any comfort as we won't be able to hug. She is mild to moderate according to her care needs assessment but this still means that she will forget what I've said afterwards but if she's upset that's going to stay with her. I suspect you're going to tell me to lie. I can't shake the feeling that this is wrong and that I'm patronising her.

B.
I don't see anything wrong with telling her initially, I think its important to be told once. After that she will be upset no doubt, but she also may not retain it for very long -then comes the question should you repeat the bad news?

Mum was still at home when dad died, it was a difficult time and she ran with it for a while, but eventually it faded and she moved on in her dementia way with it all. Afer that I never mentioned dads death again and when she asked I would tell he was away in the navy or somewhere else working (which is what he used to do) and that was enough to reassure her things were right in the world.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
13,420
South coast
Telling "therapeutic untruths" is a bona fide technique for reducing distress in dementia. Tell her the the reality once, but after that every time you tell her that her husband has died it will be like the very first time that she has been told and the grief will be fresh every time. She wont remember what she has been told, but she may remember that there is something she needs to remember about him and therefore keep asking - so it becomes a vicious circle. Therapeutic untruths meet them at the point of their need. They need to know, but the answer will cause distress and their deeper need is reassurance. It is hard to do because we are taught to be honest, but dementia changes everything.
 

Blossom50

Registered User
Aug 22, 2016
14
Hi,
My Dad died 4 weeks ago and in the hours after his death she was taken into a Care Home. This has meant that she has not seen her family since before he died - I've not seen her since January. The only people she has been in contact with have been the care home staff.

One of the members of staff advised me to be honest with Mum if she asked about Dad and to tell her that Dad had died. The care home are finally allowing visitors and I can see Mum this weekend for 15 minutes. She may not ask about Dad. But if she does I don't feel comfortable lying to her.

However I only have 15 minutes, I can't offer her any comfort as we won't be able to hug. She is mild to moderate according to her care needs assessment but this still means that she will forget what I've said afterwards but if she's upset that's going to stay with her. I suspect you're going to tell me to lie. I can't shake the feeling that this is wrong and that I'm patronising her.

B.
Hi. I had the exact same dilemma just last April, my mum went into hospital on 9th April and passed away in hospital on 18th, my dad went into a care home when mum was in hospital and it then became permanent. I could only speak to him through the window. I sought advice and got conflicting answers on wether or not to tell dad that mum was gone. I have strong personal values about honesty so I decided to tell him. One of the carers was with him when I broke the news and I told him she was going to hug him for me. He was visably shocked, sad, and overwhelmed and I was in bits, but I believe it was the right thing to do. I would not have been OK with not telling HIM. They were married for 60 years, I know we can't understand how our loved ones process information any more, but if you lie or hide the truth once how many times will you have to keep doing that? Dad has asked about where mum is in more recent visits and I tell him she is gone and change the subject, he is momentarily sad but quickly moves on to something else (like how skinny the carer is or something equally inappropriate) I know others may think it's better not to tell, but for me this was the right thing to do. My best advice to you is follow your heart, whatever you decide to do, it will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do for your parents, so do it right, be strong as they would want you to be xxx
 

MTM

Registered User
Jun 2, 2018
31
I think the advice to follow your heart is right. Maybe tell her once, maybe not.

For what it’s worth. I think it’s OK to lie if that’s the kindest option.

My Dad used to ask how his father was. I always used to say he was safe and well because that seems as decent a description of heaven as any. Another one was, he’s doing fine. Towards the end when Mum’s dementia was beginning to bite too she couldn’t remember he was ill sometimes. I remember him asking how his father was and Mum saying he was dead. Dad burst into tears and said it was the saddest thing he’d heard. She did remember after that. He went through a phase of asking how people were, who were dead and we’d say they were getting on fine. Sometimes he’d then ask if I’d heard from them and I’d say, ’not for a while, last I heard they were doing x or y - usually I’d just haul some event from my childhood involving this person out of the depths. That seemed to work and after a bit he seemed to be reassured and stopped asking.
 

blueorchid

Registered User
Feb 18, 2016
52
Thank you all for sharing your own personal experiences and offering advice. Meeting Mum for only 15 mins, with no physical contact, is not a normal situation. I think because of this unique situation I will do my best to swerve the question, then at a point when I am permitted proper contact I can properly judge the situation, have a grasp on what she can understand and take my lead from there.

The thought of telling her something that will cause her immeasurable pain and sending her back inside the home on her own would be too cruel.

I need need to spend time with her and properly judge her capacity, I think.

Thank you all again.

B.
 

Helly68

Registered User
Mar 12, 2018
705
Blueorchid, this is so very difficult.

The only thing I would add to what has already been said is also, judge when you are there. You may feel, if she is having a good day, keeps asking, that you can tell her. You may also find that for whatever reason she isnt having a good day. In the early days of Mummy being in a CH I made plans. Plans that often had to change - she was doing an activity, she didnt feel well, she had argued with the staff and was in a bad mood. I learned to judge on the day and change accordingly. Not easy to do. I hope your visit goes as well as it can.
 

Lemondrizzle

Registered User
Aug 26, 2018
76
Thank you all for sharing your own personal experiences and offering advice. Meeting Mum for only 15 mins, with no physical contact, is not a normal situation. I think because of this unique situation I will do my best to swerve the question, then at a point when I am permitted proper contact I can properly judge the situation, have a grasp on what she can understand and take my lead from there.

The thought of telling her something that will cause her immeasurable pain and sending her back inside the home on her own would be too cruel.

I need need to spend time with her and properly judge her capacity, I think.

Thank you all again.

B.
This is a very sensible approach.
 

cobden 28

Registered User
Dec 15, 2017
68
My late mother-in-law had vascular dementia and her older sister had lived in Framce since before the war. Aunty Joan died in 2002 but we didn't tell MIL until about six months after. All that MIL said was, 'oh well then' and although she seemed sad for a while she didn't mention her older sister again. MIL died later on in 2003.

Whether or when you tell your Mum is up to you, as it depends on how she's likely to react to the news.
 

AliceA

Registered User
May 27, 2016
2,858
This is the hardest thing especially when the marriage has been long and happy.
Personally I would not tell I would wait to be asked. Often a person knows at some deep level. Often when they ask they just need reassurance that the person is all right.
Do you know what they believed?
Honesty can be a cruel tool, the truth is different.
So how is Dad? Just saying he is fine just resting may be enough.
Does the home have a chaplain who calls? Many do.
I feel the kindest thing is to follow the person even when it goes against what you yourself expects to be able to do.
We do not lower standards but we do have to change to be kind.
If asked soften your answer with happy memories as that is what will remain, not the facts but the feelings.
It has been proven that when a visit is a happy one, the happiness remains when the memory of the cause is forgotten.
Remember you are grieving too, be kind to yourself.
 

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
71,807
Kent
Hello @blueorchid. My condolences for the loss of your dad and your first worry being about your mum.

My husband was told of the death of a very close friend. The friend's wife phoned and told him over the phone. They cried together.
My husband was subdued for s while and then seemed to forget. After a while he asked if his friend had died and I said he had. My husband said `Poor C ` and then it was over.

I know there is a big difference between a close friend and a long term partner and you know your mum best. I also think in later stages of dementia, there may be little difference in the love for a long term close friend and log-term partner .

The best may be to do what you think will be best for you to protect yourself as much as possible from further grief. If you were allowed close contact with your mother you could cry together. Seeing her through a window is completely different .


Remember you are grieving too, be kind to yourself.
I hope you are taking your own advice @AliceA and being kind to yourself too.
 

AliceA

Registered User
May 27, 2016
2,858
Hello @blueorchid. My condolences for the loss of your dad and your first worry being about your mum.

My husband was told of the death of a very close friend. The friend's wife phoned and told him over the phone. They cried together.
My husband was subdued for s while and then seemed to forget. After a while he asked if his friend had died and I said he had. My husband said `Poor C ` and then it was over.

I know there is a big difference between a close friend and a long term partner and you know your mum best. I also think in later stages of dementia, there may be little difference in the love for a long term close friend and log-term partner .

The best may be to do what you think will be best for you to protect yourself as much as possible from further grief. If you were allowed close contact with your mother you could cry together. Seeing her through a window is completely different .




I hope you are taking your own advice @AliceA and being kind to yourself too.
Trying too! I shall be back soon. Xxx
 

DaveCr1968

Registered User
Jul 5, 2020
58
I've told dad that his wife of 58 years has died. I'm afraid it just does not register, even though he came with me to the hospital after she passed away and saw her.

He has asked where she is once since and I've tried to explain, but it sink not sink in. It has registered that someone has died and he thinks it is his mother (she died 25 years ago). I sometimes envy him being oblivious to it all.

I'm not sure it will be worthwhile taking him to the cremation.