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My mum

Kazzan

New member
Jun 28, 2022
2
0
Hi, my mother has been in a home for dementia patients since the death of my father last December . Unfortunately I live in a different country so I only get to see her in person a couple of times a year. I am able to do video calls with her and a career, but I find it very hard to have a conversation with her. Seeing me, even though she finds it confusing over the phone she keeps asking me where Derek is (my father) and I have been told to not keep telling her that he has passed because to her she is hearing it for the first time every time. How can I deal with this, and talk with her? I find myself dreading making the call but I want to talk and see her as much as I can.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
18,901
0
South coast
Hello @Kazzan and welcome to Talking Point.

Conversation with someone with advanced dementia can become very difficult because they lose the thread of what they are saying, cant process what someone else is saying and lose the art of back and forth exchange of information - often they rely on social tropes like "how are you?" "what are doing these days?" and "how is your your mother?" without being able to follow the replies, or else completely dominate the conversation. Later on they start to lose language itself and say less and less. Phone/video calls also become more of a challenge as they lose the understanding that they are talking to an actual person. My mum used to talk into the phone, rather than to me and obviously had no idea that I was at the other end.

All of this makes your situation very difficult.

I agree with the advice not to tell her that her husband has died. She will forget your answer, but retain the feeling that something terrible has happened, so will keep asking - only to be devastated anew each time she is told. Therapeutic untruths (aka love lies) are the way to deal with it. Tell her that her husband is at work, or gone shopping, or whatever she will accept. This will relieve her anxiety and not cause distress.

When you talk to her try encouraging her to talk about things from her past - how did she cope with young children? what was her best dress like? did she go dancing? or even - what was he own school like? Get her to tell you the old family stories, or even start them off yourself to trigger the memory. You could also try playing some of her favourite music over the phone, particularly if there is some memory associated with it. When I visited mum, one of the things I used to do was read poems from one of mums books of poetry. She had had to learn them at school and could still recite them from memory with me. Maybe this is something you could try.
 

Marler19

Registered User
May 16, 2021
100
0
My mother often asks where her (long dead) mother is or wants to speak to her on the phone, or wonders why she hasn’t seen her recently. I cycle between ‘well, she’s not really around at the moment but she sends her love, and she’s fine’ and saying ‘Don’t worry, I’ll call her for you and tell her you’re ok’ and sometimes ‘well she’s a good age now isn’t she, so perhaps she’s not well enough to come.’ Sometimes my mother actually says ‘is she dead?’ And I have at that point replied ‘well she’s not really around any longer, but she’s fine’. I hope any of those help!! They do seem to work ok for us….
 

Kazzan

New member
Jun 28, 2022
2
0
My mother often asks where her (long dead) mother is or wants to speak to her on the phone, or wonders why she hasn’t seen her recently. I cycle between ‘well, she’s not really around at the moment but she sends her love, and she’s fine’ and saying ‘Don’t worry, I’ll call her for you and tell her you’re ok’ and sometimes ‘well she’s a good age now isn’t she, so perhaps she’s not well enough to come.’ Sometimes my mother actually says ‘is she dead?’ And I have at that point replied ‘well she’s not really around any longer, but she’s fine’. I hope any of those help!! They do seem to work ok for us….
Thank you so much for your reply, I do say things like he’s busy, or he’s not here right now but occasionally and out of the blue it will dawn on her that he has died and it put her in a panic. I feel totally helpless in those situations because I’m not there to help her. Unfortunately it’s hard to shake off, but I will get betterat all of this. xx
 

Sajai

New member
Jun 29, 2022
2
0
Hello @Kazzan and welcome to Talking Point.

Conversation with someone with advanced dementia can become very difficult because they lose the thread of what they are saying, cant process what someone else is saying and lose the art of back and forth exchange of information - often they rely on social tropes like "how are you?" "what are doing these days?" and "how is your your mother?" without being able to follow the replies, or else completely dominate the conversation. Later on they start to lose language itself and say less and less. Phone/video calls also become more of a challenge as they lose the understanding that they are talking to an actual person. My mum used to talk into the phone, rather than to me and obviously had no idea that I was at the other end.

All of this makes your situation very difficult.

I agree with the advice not to tell her that her husband has died. She will forget your answer, but retain the feeling that something terrible has happened, so will keep asking - only to be devastated anew each time she is told. Therapeutic untruths (aka love lies) are the way to deal with it. Tell her that her husband is at work, or gone shopping, or whatever she will accept. This will relieve her anxiety and not cause distress.

When you talk to her try encouraging her to talk about things from her past - how did she cope with young children? what was her best dress like? did she go dancing? or even - what was he own school like? Get her to tell you the old family stories, or even start them off yourself to trigger the memory. You could also try playing some of her favourite music over the phone, particularly if there is some memory associated with it. When I visited mum, one of the things I used to do was read poems from one of mums books of poetry. She had had to learn them at school and could still recite them from memory with me. Maybe this is something you could try.
My grandma had the same problem she used to ask about grand pa many times in a day. And every time it was like first time so we all decided to not let her he passed away instead we used to say he went to do this or that and then she forgot. It worked pretty good for 4/ 5 until she completely forgot about him.