running out of things to talk about with mum

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by SitsThere, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. SitsThere

    SitsThere Registered User

    Jan 7, 2013
    68
    I go to see mum in the nursing home four or five times per week at the moment and it's beginning to be difficult to find things to talk to her about. We still talk and she still answers my questions about how she is feeling but more often than not she doesn't remember what she has been doing earlier in the day, and so a lot of our talks consist either of her asking me questions I've answered dozens of times already ("where is my handbag ? What day of the week is it ? " or me rabbiting on about things going on in the outside world which I suspect she often finds baffling or confusing, and which she almost immediately forgets.
    Of course, when people who she sees rarely go to see her, they come away saying how chatty she is and have even suggested her memory is still quite good - she seems to pull out all the stops to be sociable with almost everyone but me.
    I wonder if the difficulty of conversation between us is actually due to the fact that she relaxes with me - or is it just that I am boring her and should stop going so frequently. Anyway whatever the cause I would be grateful for any tips about how to keep the conversation going with mum. Or should I just stop trying to have a conversation and watch TV with her instead, which she seems happy to do ? I know from what others have said here that I should be prepared for a time when we can't any longer have a conversation. But it seems that at the moment I'm the only one getting a preview of what that will be like - other visitors see a different mum from the one I see.
     
  2. Pickles53

    Pickles53 Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    2,482
    Radcliffe on Trent
    I recognise that sense that I was just rabbiting on if I tried to have a normal conversation as mum wasn't able to respond much; a totally one-sided conversation just got exhausting and didn't seem to get any response or sign of interest. I felt I was boring her and I was getting bored myself.

    I used to take in something to do and try and get mum to help me eg she used to be really good at knitted toys and there were several partly finished ones in her house. She would at least pick up the wool etc and seemed interested in what I was doing, even if she wouldn't or couldn't do any of the knitting herself. It also gave me something to talk about.

    I also had some of the scrapbooks she had made as part of her interest in family/local history with old pictures of her home then etc. Sometimes we would look through them together.

    No world-shattering ideas I'm afraid but hope it sparks a few ideas for you.
     
  3. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    11,489
    Female
    London
    I don't know why she talks more with other visitors but who says you have to talk at all? Sing with her instead, give her a hand massage, look at photo albums together, do a jigsaw or other arts and crafts, read a book or newspaper to her, and yes, why not watch the telly together or go for a walk...
     
  4. jugglingmum

    jugglingmum Registered User

    Jan 5, 2014
    4,917
    Female
    Chester
    Are there any board games or card games you could play with her or a jigsaw?

    I know a friend said when her mum couldn't actually manage a conversation or even to communicate much, she still could play card games remembered from the past
     
  5. Kevinl

    Kevinl Registered User

    Aug 24, 2013
    4,665
    Salford
    Yes "Or should I just stop trying to have a conversation and watch TV with her instead" do just that then talk about what's happening on the TV, if you're both watching and hopefully engaging with the same thing it gives you something in common.
    I watch a couple of quiz shows a day with my wife, they ask who did.... A, B or C, I say was it A she always agrees then it turns out Shakespear wasn't the second man on the moon (it was Buzz Lightyear apparently) and we have a laugh about it, sad I know but it keeps us closer together, I'd avoid University Challenge we all look daft trying to answer the questions on that:)
    K
     
  6. leedsfan

    leedsfan Registered User

    Apr 1, 2012
    421
    Hello,

    I too visit my dad around 5 times a week. I only stay for about 40 mins but I too get a bit stuck for what to say. It's no use trying to engage him in any sort of game he wouldn't be able to manage that and the tv is not an option. We do have the same conversation over and over again but he's ok with that so I just go along with it like its all new to me.

    I do find it easier when my brother comes along with me as it helps to talk around Dad if he doesn't feel up to joining in. Plus it is easier if as others have said I take something to do. I like to cut his nails for him and massage him with some nice hand cream. I also try to engage some of the staff in our conversation.

    Dad doesn't drink tea or coffee so I always take him a couple of small bottles of ginger beer or diet coke which I have to help him drink and some soft centred chocs.

    Dad is immobile now and suffers with pressure sores to his back so sits on a comfy recliner when he's in the lounge so unfortunately it's not possible to get around much or go outside when the weather is a bit warmer. But we sometimes sit in the conservatory and I'll put some of his favourite music on and we just sit listening and looking out at the trees.

    Although I have been visiting dad for 20 months now I have to remind myself that he has changed so much and to keep it simple, sad but true. I would dearly love to take him to the cinema, to the pub for a pint on a Friday teatime and then home with fish and chips, or to the baths for a swim, which we did at least three times a week not so long ago. These are thing we don't ever mention about the world outside as he would be so upset at missing his old life. Tricky isn't it?

    Jane.
     
  7. Owly

    Owly Registered User

    Jun 6, 2011
    538
    My Mum enjoyed looking at books and reading bits aloud, until near the end. A good book which is all pictures is Remember When by Robert Opie as it goes through all the past decades with pictures of products from those times. You can find it on Amazon.

    I also bought her children's factual books (in The Works shop) on the Vikings, the Greeks, etc. Those kinds of history books don't look too childish and they are a nice mix of pictures and a bit of text. Charity shops are a good place to look too. The last book she 'read' was one all about the 1940s that I found in a charity shop. I bought her Rupert Bear annuals which she looked through, though I don't think she could follow the stories.

    Do you take her magazines? Libraries often do a swap box so you can replenish your supply.
     
  8. Lancashirelady

    Lancashirelady Registered User

    Oct 7, 2014
    110
    My Mum still lives in her own home. I spend the day with her twice a week and she came to us for a week at Christmas. It was a very long week! She wants to be entertained all the time and as her eyesight is getting very poor (AMD) and her concentration is not much better she has little interest in the TV, can't read magazines or do jigsaws. Looking at old photos always used to to stimulate her but she doesn;t want to any more, partly though sight difficulties but also because she can no longer remember a lot of the photos. Although we read snippets from the paper to her and she enjoys doing simple crosswords when you read out the clues you get to the point when you simply run out of things to say. I would love to be able to sit and watch the telly with her in companionable silence!
     
  9. maryw

    maryw Registered User

    Nov 16, 2008
    3,805
    Surrey
    I had similar experiences with my Mum who had AMD and dementia. I used to get her to talk about her childhood days. She would talk about the family and village life for hours and it engrossed her and me. I miss it now she is no longer here....
     
  10. Soobee

    Soobee Registered User

    Aug 22, 2009
    2,734
    South
    I started a memory book and would talk about that with my mum. It had pictures of her family and her marriage, her work life, what she liked - bingo, wrestling. It was mainly photos with a bit of explanation text but I really enjoyed researching it. I might still finish it as an heirloom.

    She was only giving one word responses for the last year of her life so the conversation was me babbling on. The only things that really got a response was a certain song (which upset her) or talking about her grandchildren.

    I'd never been able to just sit with her like dad did, I always felt I had to fill the silences - even with him, who was always the quietest man I've ever met! He would happily sit by a riverbank all day fishing. I would want some company or I'd end up talking to the ducks!!

    Mum showed no interest in magazines or papers, I don't think she could read any longer. I tried to get her writing a couple of times but I don't know if that frustrated her or not. I bought her an activity lap thing to fiddle with, she wasn't interested. Early on, we gave her a soft toy cat which had been on her bed but she definitely felt that was patronising and stupid! To be honest I was willing to try anything to liven up her day - she could do nothing but lay in bed, she couldn't even move more than one hand.
     
  11. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    4,829
    UK
    I sometimes get a headache and sore throat from talking to mum, anything to stop her repeating the same old mixed up stories, I've just given up and watch t.v with her, she is still interested in a few programmes. I think visitors to our house are now getting a good idea of how repetitive she has become. We used to play board games, but I now have to remind her how to play, because she gets frustrated, tried snakes and ladders last week. Sometimes shows interest in a jig saw though.
     
  12. Benrese

    Benrese Registered User

    Apr 12, 2014
    186
    Lancashire
    Another suggestion, applicable only if this is within your and your Mum's comfort zone: Touch therapy.

    One thing we know our loved ones in care don't get much of is human touch. Of course, some may not be comforted by touch at all, and quite the opposite. I am not referring to those folks.

    My husband went through similar with his dad and he has found that giving dad a shave (electric) razor and a nice scalp massage with a bit of healthy lotion seems to please him. Also, we lotion his hands and feet as well. For him it seems to help ground him.

    We stumbled upon this as we noticed the previously non-touchie-feelie dad was grasping our hands when we came into the room or he thought we were leaving.

    Maybe brushing hair, massaging hands with lotion, rubbing back...
     
  13. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    4,829
    UK
    Never been a touchy feely family my mum now loves all of this. We have a very nice lady who comes in to 'do' mums feet and toe nails, I pay her to stay an extra 15 minutes to give mums feet a massage and I have a foot spa.
     
  14. SitsThere

    SitsThere Registered User

    Jan 7, 2013
    68
    Thanks very much to all of you for some good suggestions. I already do the cutting nails, reading newspapers aloud, brushing hair, looking at photos, but things like going for a walk are not really an option now (she can't stand being outside in the cold and can't walk very far anyway even with her walker). However, the jigsaw and cards ideas sound worth a try. From the sound of things, 'just sitting' is a skill I need to learn.
     
  15. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    15,976
    Toronto, Canada
    Listening to music together might work, especially if you know her favourites.
     
  16. irishmanc

    irishmanc Registered User

    Jan 14, 2015
    64
    Manchester
    Yes, I've found that listening to music makes my Dad very tranquil. Sometimes, we even sing along!
     
  17. cragmaid

    cragmaid Registered User

    Oct 18, 2010
    7,963
    North East England
    Some weeks I visit 7 days a week, some weeks I visit once or twice. OK I'm lucky, I only live a 10 minute walk away......some visits last well over an hour or two, some are lucky if they last 10 mins. I go in her room, I tell her who I am, the weather outside, if I've been to the shops, all these worthy converation pieces are interspersed with naps by Mum and thumb twiddling by me!!

    Fewer, shorter visits have worked for me, and at the risk of sounding cruel and hard, Mum is none the wiser!! Usually she greets me with " I didn't know you were visiting today";)
     
  18. lizzybean

    lizzybean Registered User

    Feb 3, 2014
    1,398
    Lancashire
    My MIL is not in a home but we play dominoes sometimes. We bought some coloured ones so they are easier to identify. If she says I don't have any sixes, I will say oh do you not have any yellow ones & sometimes she does sometimes she doesn't.
     
  19. clojh21

    clojh21 Registered User

    Jan 4, 2013
    6
    aiding the conversation when visiting

    Hello,

    I saw this message and wanted to respond as I completely understand where you are coming from. i work for the alzheimer's society but also have a relative in a care home and try to implement different techniques when visiting.

    One thing that really works to engage the person even though conversation may not be flowing is to try rubbing handcream on your mums hands, this stimulates the skin senses and the smell from a nice hadncream and in turn your mum may rub the handcream in your hands which is a great response and stimulates the mind without the need for extensive conversation however you can discuss the hand cream etc. paint nails the same idea. When people we don't know as well we put on a good social front so your mum feeling comfortable with you may not feel the need to concentrate on talking. However it can be that the starter motor for a person to begin a conversation isn't as responsive so it does fall on your shoulders to do the talking. hearing your voice though will be bringing your mu comfort.

    Looking through old photographs and items from your mums life are also a great tool to talk about as those will be the more secure memories your mum feels confident talking about. it doesn't matter if next time you go these conversations are repeated if it gets a response.

    Hope this helps.
     
  20. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    4,282
    SW London
    I have read so often about hand massages, but every time I ever tried it my mother got irritated and grumpy and pushed me away. I think she must be unusual, since I have seen it recommended so often.
     

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