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How do you handle a person with dementia

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by skaface, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. skaface

    skaface Registered User

    Jul 18, 2011
    believing that someone who died a quarter of a century ago is still alive?

    My mum has mixed dementia and today said she was going to go and stay with her mum - I gently reminded her that her mum had died in 1990 but she adamantly refused to believe this and said yes, her DAD had died suddenly (which he did, in 1972) but that her mum was still very much alive.

    So I asked her where my grandmother was living now, and she said she didn't know.

    The cruel part is that her mum was 92 when she died but had all her mental faculties and was as sharp as a knife until two days before she died - she would be horribly upset to know how unhappy her daughter is now. My aunt, my mum's older sister, is 88 and also has all her faculties and is dreadfully upset at how this horrible disease is robbing us of her sister day by day.

    So, what is the best approach to take - do I play along with it, or do I tell her gently but firmly that her mum has been dead for a long time? I don't want to upset her either way.
  2. Neph

    Neph Registered User

    Jan 27, 2014
    I used to play along. Mum would frequently ask for her dad I'd always say he was working late on the railway which he had done for many years. That would placate her, no point in adding more distress over and over. As she got worse she would tell me all about her daughter, never bothered to tell her ut was me.
  3. Anongirl

    Anongirl Registered User

    Aug 8, 2012
    Hi Skaface. My mum used to say her dad was coming soon and I always just went along with it. It unfortunately won't help to keep reminding your mum that her mum is dead because in her world this isn't true and you will just find yourself having the same frustrating and upsetting conversation. I often tried to keep mum in my reality but unfortunately it's impossible. Xxx
  4. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    If she is not demanding you take her to her mother then just smile and give her a hug.
  5. skaface

    skaface Registered User

    Jul 18, 2011
    Thank you both, I did think that would be the case.

    The thing I'm dreading is her starting to talk about my late father - she led him a right dance while he was alive with accusations of having affairs and whatnot, and it was a great shock for me at the age of 13 when he died suddenly.

    I'm not sure if I can hold it together if she does start talking about dad if he's still alive, however she has barely brought herself to mention his name in the 37 years since he died so she may not even think about him any more.
  6. Neph

    Neph Registered User

    Jan 27, 2014
    Mum never mentions dad at all. She even went so far as to say she had never been married. Just cross that bridge when you get to it.
  7. skaface

    skaface Registered User

    Jul 18, 2011
    She'd slap me if I did hug her! She's never been what you might call an affectionate mother.

    If she demanded to be taken to her, I'd bundle her in the car and drive her down to Folkestone where her parents are buried, by the time we got there she would have forgotten why were going there in the first place as often she has forgotten what she said a moment ago and often ends up contradicting herself.
  8. sue38

    sue38 Registered User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Wigan, Lancs
    Your mum's reality is that her mother is alive and well. If I were to respond to your post by telling you that in fact your mum died several years ago you would think I was mad, and you would be adamant that your mum is still very much alive. That is how your mum will react when you tell her that her mum has died.

    There is a saying that you can't hope to take someone with dementia out of their world, instead you must try and enter theirs. Sometimes this means going along with their reality, and the odd white lie as to why she can't go and see her mum today.

    This thread on Compassionate Communication may help.

    It is difficult to get your head around it, and I don't pretend it's always easy, but if you can do it it will ultimately make both your lives easier :).
  9. kaycee30

    kaycee30 Registered User

    Feb 4, 2015
    White lies certainly dont hurt, what your mum is saying is truely what she believes is true and in the moment, if you or anyone disagrees it'll probably make the situation worse, could even make her feel the need to grieve again Which in turn may set of other emotions.
    Id suggest if she asks for you to take her to folkestone, you drive around the block.
    Hope this helps x
  10. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    When my mother (well over 90) used to ask to go and see her parents, I'd just say yes, maybe we can go tomorrow when the roads aren't so busy/icy/anything else that sounded good. It would always pacify her.

    When my FIL started asking where his wife (dead 10 years) was, we soon learned not to tell him the truth, however gently - he would be terribly upset, only to forget and ask again later. So she would have just gone to the shops/to see Auntie So and So etc. - again anything else that sounded good. This always pacified him, too. It's not usually much use trying to reason with someone with dementia or give logical explanations. Reason and logic will usually get you nowhere. Far easier and less upsetting all round to think up whatever little white lies will work best.

    Though when you are new to this sort of thing it is hard to cope with, I know. I well remember how shocked and startled we were when FIL first asked about long-dead MIL. You can't believe that they could have forgotten such a thing. But it's amazing how quickly you can get used to it.
  11. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    When my mother would say she wanted to go and see her parents, I would agree and say "How about the day after tomorrow? I have errands to run tomorrow" and that would reassure her till the next time she asked the question.
  12. LYN T

    LYN T Registered User

    Aug 30, 2012
    Brixham Devon
    When I used to pick my Husband up from Daycare more often than not he was crying and asking why hadn't his Dad picked him up. It was like he had gone back to childhood. I used a variety of reasons why Dad wasn't there-trains on strike/motorway closed for roadworks. I always used to say Dad had phoned and asked me to look after Pete until whatever problem was resolved. It must have been very frightening for Pete to think that he was waiting for his Dad who hadn't turned up.

    Take care

    Lyn T XX
  13. Bod

    Bod Registered User

    Aug 30, 2013
    My Father asked this question, "Where's Mother & Father?"
    My answer was "I don't know, I haven't seen them for years."
    Perfectly true, one died in the sixties, the other the seventies.

    Just try to be truthful, and vague, that way you won't get caught out.
    Remember your answer, most likely won't be remembered, so can be repeated with out too much thought.

  14. Anniebell

    Anniebell Registered User

    Jan 31, 2015
    Hi Scaface
    Have the same thing with mum she thinks her mum and dad live with her she keeps phoning me telling me they have gone and left her or do you know where my mum and dad have gone this used to freak me out but I'm slowly getting used to it she also thinks my dad is still alive (he died in sept 13 ) this really cuts me up but I suppose I'll get used to that in time mum was diagnosed in dec, when mum says anything bizarre to me I try and change the subject ask what she had for breakfast or do you want a cuppa it works most of the time and like Sue 38 says you can't take them out of their world so we have to enter theirs it's hard I know I'm still new to all this and it's heart breaking watching the person you love going through this
    Take care Annie x
    Ps I'm busy looking for the alarm pendant that mum says she never takes off !!!!! I know it's in here somewhere but where ????? I'll let you know where I find it x
  15. What do I do?

    What do I do? Registered User

    Mar 12, 2013
    What I found

    I can really sympathize. It took me ages to accept it was better to go along with what my mother was saying, than try to make her see the "truth". Real life made her unhappy because she was muddled, so it was much better to go along with her fantasies about people still being alive. There were lots of difficult times when she was saying my father was late (he died two years earlier), so I either had to find an excuse or try to distract her with something else. In the end, just try to keep her happy. I know that's not easy. Good luck.
  16. skywatcher

    skywatcher Registered User

    Mar 6, 2014
    My mother not only thinks that some elderly relatives (who died forty years ago) are alive, she mistakes her husband (my father) for them. I've long since given up either correcting her delusion or playing along with it. I find the most effective solution is simply to change the subject and generally divert her attention. I think Dad finds it upsetting that he's no longer recognised as himself, but at least Mum still regards him as a loved member of the family.
  17. Grandma Earley

    Grandma Earley Registered User

    Jan 22, 2015
    My lovely mother in law who is 79 with advanced dementia plus terminal cancer also believes both her parents are alive. She also asks if I have seen her brother who died about 18 years ago. When she says she hasn't seen them for a long time and wants to visit we just go along with it. To her they are still alive and we wouldn't want to add to her confusion by telling her differently. As with most things she soon forgets about it
    I have found it helpful to try and remember that whatever she thinks and says are as real to her as they are as unreal to us. Not always easy but for me it works.
    We have had to take the difficult decision to put mum into a care home (will be this Monday) as my father in law who is also 79 and has cancer can no longer look after her.
    Mum was given approx. 12 months a year ago and she has done quite well up until now but now the cancer is very much taken a hold and seems to be accelerating the dementia if this possible. To us we lost mum 18 months ago but still sad the effect this dreadful disease has on not only the sufferer but also the family.
    Take care
    Grandma Earley
  18. Wendy7713

    Wendy7713 Registered User

    Aug 18, 2014
    I have dementia and me and my duaghters have discussed this. We eventually all agreed to go along with the story, after all, what does it matter if she believes someone is alive that died years ago. In a few minutes she will have forgotten the conversation and may start it all over again. To simply go along with it means your mum will not continue to go through the trauma each time you contradict her. I always tell my girls to think 'what does it matter if I've got things wrong'

  19. Messup

    Messup Registered User

    May 15, 2014
    I'm new to being a carer for my mum. When I read the following it all made perfect sense and have been doing it ever since.

    Don't have unrealistic expectations.
    Don't argue/ explain / try to reason / confront / remind them that they have forgotten / ask questions / or take it personally.
    They can't change - you have to be flexible and adaptable.
    Show rather than tell - body language.
    Repeat instructions exactly.
    Use distractions especially music /reminiscence therapy / cajole, (I suggest a cup of milo)
    Praise for what they can still do - respect their feelings.
    Ask yourself "Does it really matter)
    Above all - keep your sense of humor!
    I take each day as it comes and love mum as she is. Still my mother.

    Hope that is some help. ☺
  20. Pottingshed50

    Pottingshed50 Registered User

    Apr 8, 2012
    Yes it has happened to my Mum as well. I tried to think of it as a comfort for Mum to think that her Mum was still alive. It all got a bit tricky though the day she reported her Mum and Dad as missing to the police. You can picture the scene with the poor police thinking that a crime had been committed and we turned up to explain matteers. They were very understanding.

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