Looking for ideas how to deal with this...

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by looviloo, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. looviloo

    looviloo Registered User

    May 3, 2015
    #1 looviloo, Nov 2, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015
    Dad moved into a care home in May, following a serious fall. He was later diagnosed with vascular dementia, and is mid stage. He was previously independent (with help from family) and had lived in the same house for over 50 years, so understandably became very attached to it and the wrench was awful. But he's slowly settling into the care home and thankfully no longer moans/yearns/acts frustrated to the same extent that he did for the first few months.

    My problem is this... despite dad's needs (24 hour) and failing memory, he remembers the house and it's cluttered contents to the minutest detail. He asks 'does it still look the same?', all the time, and although I've (gently) mentioned on various occasions that the house will have to be sold, he forgets and asks the same set of questions again and again. He's mostly concerned about what is happening to various bits of electrical equipment (he was an engineer) and says he wouldn't like it to 'go' or be sold. He might want some of it, he says. And he is often asking for little things from the house, and describes exactly where they are, down to batteries, or a calculator, or more recently a black tie (unfortunately a friend of his recently passed away).

    Trouble is, I've been slowly and single-handedly sorting the clutter out (and there's a lot of it), boxing things up, and clearing out cupboards. I've tried to talk to dad about it, but it's just too distressing for him, so I tend to be vague in my responses. But the house will be put on the market after Christmas - and the little things he's talking about will no longer be where he thinks they are. I keep moving stuff to the care home, and he's filling up the drawers there, but there's always something else.

    Help! What is the kindest, least stressful way to approach this? I haven't told lies as such, I just haven't told the whole truth. He's been back to the house once since moving, and sometimes says he would like to go back again. Of course, I avoid that one because it isn't as he remembers it anymore. But mostly he's just asking for things that soon won't be there :-/. And he can be very persistent! What do I do?
  2. Shedrech

    Shedrech Volunteer Moderator

    Dec 15, 2012
    Looviloo, I know just what you mean - though for the first time yesterday dad actually said "I am at home aren't I?" and I did say yes; he was happy with that and I was so relieved as he's been impossible to calm sometimes. He's been in the care home 6 months now.
    I know it goes against the grain - would it be so awful to fib to your dad, though? He's wanting reassurance rather than the actual object. Just say something such as 'yes the house/object was fine last time I saw/used/checked on it'. Or 'I lent that to ..., they've found it so useful' or 'I used that the other day and it needs a new battery/plug ... so I'll get that sorted first' ie anything to validate his concern but to distract it too.
    My dad doesn't really need to know the house is being cleared and sold, and I agree going back just wouldn't be the experience he thinks it will be. It's tough, though, isn't it - I think I've cleared enough for the house to look good for the sales brochure but just can't face sorting through his shed!
  3. looviloo

    looviloo Registered User

    May 3, 2015
    #3 looviloo, Nov 2, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015
    Thanks Shedrech, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it's good to know you understand!

    At the moment I can get away with half-fibs, but there will come a time soon when I'll have to blatantly lie, for all the best of reasons. My standard response at the moment is 'yes, the house looks the same', which it does... from the outside! But I'll have to get more creative. Your 'I lent it to so and so' might work, or maybe 'that doesn't work anymore so I'll get you a new one' could work too. It's reassurances he needs, but not just that, he's insisting on tangible evidence!

    It's so good to hear that your dad has finally settled to a large extent... we're bound to have ups and downs, but hopefully in the direction of a safer and more settled future. Like you, I have no plans to give in to my dad's desire to go back to his old home, I just don't think it would achieve anything. To be honest, I've stalled a bit with house clearing and need to have one last push, and then maybe it'll look good enough for sale. I came across letters that dad sent my mum during their 'courting' days, on my last visit, and had to have a little weep. I'm glad it's me going through all these things but as you say, it's tough. I'm sure we'll both feel better when the burden of the house has gone!

    And please don't get me started on the garage! I haven't even thought about that one yet!!! :D

    Good Luck!
  4. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    Would it be possible to take some photos of things in position - then he can have those forever and when he asks the same questions you can bring out his little photo album. These things are precious and photos can be 'forever' memories for those whose memories are compromised....just a thought xx
  5. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    I am in the process of selling and clearing mums home. Like you I keep finding things at the back of cupboards and tucked away in drawers leading me to go away and have a little weep....
    I have not told mum that I am selling the bungalow and do not intend to. If she asks about it I say that its "just the same as usual". She doesnt ask for anything from it, but if she did I think I would suddenly keep forgetting to bring it ;)
  6. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    How is his short term memory? Would he remember if you said more than once that you will bring whatever it is next time? if short term memory is very bad it may possible to recycle 'love lies ' over and over if they will keep the person happy - I certainly did.

    He may well forget the house in time, and maybe sooner than you imagine. My mother forgot hers quite quickly - if she asked to go home later on she meant to her long-dead parents' house, where she hadn't lived since before WW2. It didn't even exist any more, as she had been well aware pre dementia.

    It is heart- and gut- wrenching having to clear and sell someone's house while they are still alive. You feel as if you're throwing their life away. Having done both, I think it's even worse than after someone has died. Many sympathies.
  7. Bessieb

    Bessieb Registered User

    Jun 2, 2014
    This is exactly the same situation as I have with my parents and it's such a tricky one.
    They both can't remember why they had to move to the CH together and have no concept of their medical needs so talk a lot about 'when they are going home' and ask about their house all the time.
    The 'going home' issue is reasonable easy to deal with (as they generally believe they've only arrived in the last couple of days despite being their since July) but the house questions are harder. At the moment I'm going with 'it's exactly how you left it, all safe' ...which is true apart from fewer contents and a big FOR SALE sign outside the door but I'm dreading it when it's sold and I have to lie to them.

    So you completely have my sympathy looviloo...and I think it is a question of 'love lies'. I think I'm still going to go with 'it's exactly how you left it' but will find it very hard.

    In terms of possession I have told them that they have given me things for safekeeping - which they have to be fair - but not as much as I am making out. If they ask for things I bring what I can but they have generally forgotten what they have asked for by the time I come back....and we go round the 'you've given it to me for safekeeping I'll bring it next time' loop again which generally seems to work.
  8. looviloo

    looviloo Registered User

    May 3, 2015
    Thanks for your replies :). I've been busy this week, visiting dad and pushing a bit harder to get the house sorted out. Did the (2) bathrooms this week, so just a couple of bedrooms to go and then I'll start getting rid of things in earnest.

    fizzie, thanks for your photos suggestion. I went round the house with my camera before I touched anything, as much to preserve my own memories as anything else. There might come a point when I can show them to dad but at the moment I think it would raise too many issues :-/.

    canary, I don't plan to tell dad about the house sale, but I'm dreading it because there'll be no turning back and my fibs will have to be more creative. I'm hoping that dad's questions will get fewer and further between...

    Witzend, dad's memory is strange... yes, he forgets what he had for lunch or struggles to recall a name, but I wouldn't say his short term memory is so much worse than his long-term memory. It's as if all his memories are decreasing slowly, and his world is getting smaller so he's hanging on to the most deeply engrained ones, such as the old house, or his time in the RAF. Isn't it odd, and difficult to grasp? I do find myself repeating things, just to reassure him. Maybe he'll always ask about the house... and maybe I'll always have to use the same replies. So hard. He's quite persistent! You obviously understand the emotional impact of clearing a person's house while they are alive - it's incredibly draining, so I've tried to build a wall around me, to keep some detachment. Focus on the practical. It's the only way I can get through it.

    Bessieb, yes, it's when the 'for sale' sign goes up that I think it'll really hit me. So sorry to hear you are going through this too. I hope your sale goes smoothly, since selling a house is stressful enough without all the additional considerations! I need to find myself a similar excuse regarding dad's possessions, as you have for your parents. "I'm looking after it for you" might work. Sometimes he forgets what he's asked for and other times I get half a dozen phone calls from him, asking me to bring whatever-it-is. And he generally knows exactly what it looks like or where it's located... which is difficult now things have been boxed up!

    Thanks again everyone - it helps to talk :)
  9. Chuggalug

    Chuggalug Registered User

    Mar 24, 2014
    #9 Chuggalug, Nov 6, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
    Could you take photos of a few of the items to help him through this? That might help a little, xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Oh, I missed Fizzie's comment! Just put this one in whilst reading yours.
  10. looviloo

    looviloo Registered User

    May 3, 2015
    Photos are a great idea, but I've had a mixed reaction from dad to old photos in general. Maybe one of the outside of the house, in a little frame might be ok. I can only try! Really appreciate all the suggestions :)))

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