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"I know she's dead, but how is she?"


New member
Apr 16, 2020
Hello again!

My dad (has vascular dementia) keeps (weekly approximately?) asking how his mother is. My dad is 85, and his mother died coming up for 40 years ago, when I was about 4.

My mother / his wife died last October, and in the last few months he's needed the occasional reminder in a way that prods his memory gently then he remembers. But we're certain (and I try to keep a habit of referring to my mum by her first name so to reduce confusion), that he's talking about his mother by confirming her by name.

As gentle honesty has worked well for my wife and I reasonably well before we've continued this strategy so far with my dad, but the last 2 maybe 3 times he's asked he's been responding along the lines of "I know she's dead but how is she?", and we're wondering whether maybe it's time to start helping him maintain a confused fantasy by saying she's fine, though how far to take this 'maintenance' is a possible question.

Something that isn't helping IMO is that (at least according to other family members) I have a bit of a poker face, and I think my dad is starting to think that I'm verbally fencing with him ('spirited discussion' has been a long-standing tradition in this family) or being less than completely honest with him when answering this question. He also recently accused me of "fixing it with his doctor" that his application for a driver's licence would fail. When pushed to this point I've been responding with the aim of disarming honesty, and he usually backpedals with some BS logic like I wasn't intentionally conspiring against him or intentionally being evasive with him.

Re his mother - she's been the person that he's been wanting us to go and see; she used to live at the other end of the country. According to his brother, his mother when she had dementia used to ask for her mother too.



Volunteer Moderator
Dec 15, 2012
hi @mikemikemike
I think you've answered your own question ie time to fudge things
you might answer eg "oh, you know her, she's the same as ever" or some other form of words that isn't a direct lie .... or, if your dad isn't accepting that, link your answer to what you know of their life together eg she's off on another holiday, visiting family, busy with work


Registered User
Apr 13, 2018
Hi @mikemikemike , when my mother asks if I’ve seen long dead relatives I say things like ‘not very lately’ or ‘yes she’s still in the same place.’ I think that sort of vague reply might help.
A friend told me she mentioned to her motherthat she’d been to the funeral of a mutual friend. ‘And how was she?’ asked her mum.
i think it is very common and the best thing is to gloss over it as much as possible, though I could tell my mother without a shadow of doubt that my long dead paternal grandmother hadn’t just moved toLiverpool.


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
South coast
My mum used to use the same sentence construction "I know..............., but............?" and the question showed that she didnt know at all. The non-logic used to make me smile.

I used to suspect of mum, and I also suspect of your dad, that what he is really saying is "I know Ive been told that my mum is dead, but I dont believe it and I want you to tell me what she is really like" He will never truly accept that she has died, so you will have to use "love lies" (or therapeutic untruths, if you are happier with that name) as others have suggested