Do we tell mother that daughter is dying

Discussion in 'Middle - later stages of dementia' started by Bluebell1985, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Bluebell1985

    Bluebell1985 New member

    Mar 9, 2019
    I am hoping that someone out there has experience of this situation and can give us the benefit of their experience.

    My 90 year old mother in law has moderate dementia. She lives alone but has carers and volunteer visitors every day., she goes out for lunches and visits. She is well looked after and happy in her own home where she has lived for 55 years.

    She has three children, one lives 200 miles away, one lives in Spain and the third lives close to her mother. Very sadly my sister in law who lives close by is now very seriously ill and has a prognosis of just a few months. Mother in law does know that her daughter is ill but we have been able to say truthfully that she is quite ill, having to rest and aren’t unable to drive and she quickly forgets. When mother in law first realised that she was ill because she saw her, she rang her house repeatedly but over time she seems to have forgotten.

    Our dilemma is whether to tell her or not. I feel that it would cause her unnecessary stress and she may decide to get on a bus to visit or start ringing my sister in laws house again.There are absolutely no other family members nearby and we are trying to manage her situation at a distance so this makes things really hard. My husband and his sister want to do the right thing but do not want to cause a unmanageable breakdown particularly given the distances involved and her present happy situation.

    Please could you give us the pros and cons of telling her or not telling her from your own experience and benefit of hindsight?

    Thank you.
  2. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    If she forgets things, how often are you planning to tell her? You will cause her stress and pain every time, which can't be in her best interest. Some people say, tell her once and leave it at that - my opinion is that saying nothing is the best cause of action if you want to keep her happy.
  3. karaokePete

    karaokePete Registered User

    Jul 23, 2017
    N Ireland
    Hello @Bluebell1985, welcome to the forum, even though the circumstances that bring you here are distressing. You have come to the right place for information and support.

    Given what you say about causing distress with such news I think you have to weigh up the possible benefits of telling the truth against the reality of your MiL's present state and likely reaction. There are two Society Factsheets that mention this subject and you can find them by clicking the PDF lines of the following links. Pages 12-13 of the first and Pg 8 of the second are the most relevant.
    Grief, loss and bereavement (507)
    PDF printable version

    Making decisions and managing difficult situations (484)
    PDF printable version

    Now that you have found us I hope you will keep posting as the membership has vast collective knowledge and experience.
  4. Louise7

    Louise7 Registered User

    Mar 25, 2016
    You have already told your MIL that her daughter is ill so you have not kept that from her. As she has forgotten and is happy saying anything further may cause upset and distress. My sister and I were in the same position when my sister was dying. Mum had been told that she was ill and we decided it would be best for Mum's wellbeing not to say any more, or to keep repeating this. It may have been different if Mum had been asking about my sister but she hadn't, so as hard as it was we felt that letting Mum know that things had got worse would have served no purpose and risked distressing her. With the benefit of hindsight we did exactly the right thing, even though some (distant) relatives felt otherwise. Others may do things differently but your husband and his sister can only do what they feel to be right as they know their Mum best.
  5. Amelie5a

    Amelie5a Registered User

    Nov 5, 2014
    I'm really sorry to read about the situation your family is in.

    My Dad had already been diagnosed with mixed dementia two years before my sister was diagnosed with MND. And she died just 20 months later. That was just under 18 months ago.

    My sister lived in the same city as Dad and when first ill, saw him frequently but as the disease advanced, she chose to retreat. She didn't want Dad to know or to see her as various disabilities took hold.

    Dad didn't really notice he was seeing her less, and then not at all. A couple of times, at first, he mentioned it - but his own disease was advancing. He would always tell people about his three daughters - he still does - but that's as far as it goes.

    When my sister was in hospital, in her last few days, I asked her if she'd like to see Dad - but no, she didn't. But at that stage I did tell dad that she was very poorly as I felt he 'deserved' to know. He took on board that someone was ill, but it didn't really compute, and I left it at that point.

    Do you know what your sister-in-law would like in relation to her mother? Her wishes should be taken into account, I would suggest.

    Sadly, too, there will come a point when you will face the question of what to do with MIL in relation to your sister-in-law's funeral.

    It's a terrible time for all concerned, except perhaps your MIL who is oblivious. So much depends on the extent of her dementia and her day-to-day support as to how you go forward from here. By the time my sister's illness had really taken hold I was living with Dad so I was able to make judgement calls as events unfolded, based on how he was.

    But so difficult at a time when my own emotions were so intense. I feel for you all...
  6. Bluebell1985

    Bluebell1985 New member

    Mar 9, 2019
    Thank you so much for your replies, we will read everything carefully and then my husband and his sisters will decide what to do. It really helps to hear from people who have had first hand experience of this awful situation.
  7. Kikki21

    Kikki21 Registered User

    Feb 27, 2016
    East Midlands
    It does depend on so much & also how far advanced the dementia is. Personally, I would leave it that your sister in law is ill & hopefully your mum in law won’t bring it up again & so you don’t have to tell her each time.
    Sometimes I think my mum doesn’t realise that both her sisters have died but then she will usually correct herself.
    My mum’s dementia ( also mixed) is pretty advanced.

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