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Telling Dad about a close friend who has passed away

Burglady

Registered User
Oct 27, 2014
1
Leicestershire
My Dad is diagnosed with vascular dementia and his condition varies very much from day to day, or hour to hour, may be more accurate. His close friend of some 60 years, who has supported him so much over the last 5 years that Dad has struggled with his dementia has sadly just passed away. Dad mentions him regularly, and doesn't realise that he hasn't seen him for a couple of months now.

We don't know how to deal with this as Dad does ask after his parents and his siblings, and the first time he asked after Mum I tried to gently tell him that Mum died a long time ago, and he crumbled as though it was the first time he'd been told this. We now deal with these questions in different ways depending on how he is, but often by trying to bring happy memories into the conversation. I appreciate there's no right or wrong way to deal with this, as everyone's different but just wondered how other people had gone about it, as I know he will be very upset. Should we tell him at all, or tell him and accept that we'll have to tell him many times as he will forget.
 

Pete R

Registered User
Jul 26, 2014
2,038
Staffs
My Mom's best friend died last year. I still haven't told her.

I did the same as you when she asked about her Mom for the first time and I never want to see that "crumble" again
 

ferniegirl

Registered User
May 10, 2015
54
Surrey, UK
My Dad is diagnosed with vascular dementia and his condition varies very much from day to day, or hour to hour, may be more accurate. His close friend of some 60 years, who has supported him so much over the last 5 years that Dad has struggled with his dementia has sadly just passed away. Dad mentions him regularly, and doesn't realise that he hasn't seen him for a couple of months now.

We don't know how to deal with this as Dad does ask after his parents and his siblings, and the first time he asked after Mum I tried to gently tell him that Mum died a long time ago, and he crumbled as though it was the first time he'd been told this. We now deal with these questions in different ways depending on how he is, but often by trying to bring happy memories into the conversation. I appreciate there's no right or wrong way to deal with this, as everyone's different but just wondered how other people had gone about it, as I know he will be very upset. Should we tell him at all, or tell him and accept that we'll have to tell him many times as he will forget.
Hi there. My gut feeling is don't tell him. As you say, if you do, you will have to tell him over and over and he will experience the news as if it was the first time he has heard it which will be terribly distressing for him.
 

Long-Suffering

Registered User
Jul 6, 2015
425
No point telling him. If he mentions him, I'd just get him focused on a happy memory of him with his friend. Something to make him smile.

LS
 

justjimjams

Registered User
Jan 30, 2013
12
Somerset
I would agree that not telling him is far kinder.. My mother has vascular dementia, her condition also varies constantly..sometimes it's hard to keep up..
Thing is, because of the memory, and the 'skewed' timeline (for want of a better description), if you tell them someone close has died..they may be upset (naturally)..but then, 5 minutes later (or an hour or next day) have forgotten you ever told them the sad news. So then during their next confused moment, for example, they might be telling you how they have just come back from seeing their mother..then they mention their (deceased) close friend..and hey presto, you're back at square one, breaking the news all over again and having them upset once more. And of course this goes on and on since it is the nature of the thing..

So that is why I personally have chosen not to go down this path any more. Not an easy one but I think it helps me to know I am not putting them through an awful Groundhog Day scenario.
 

Apothecary

Registered User
Aug 3, 2015
2
Understanding where they are

My Dad is diagnosed with vascular dementia and his condition varies very much from day to day, or hour to hour, may be more accurate. His close friend of some 60 years, who has supported him so much over the last 5 years that Dad has struggled with his dementia has sadly just passed away. Dad mentions him regularly, and doesn't realise that he hasn't seen him for a couple of months now.

In my experience with my Mum when someone died (including my Dad) the only way to deal with it was to put ourselves in her position. Every day she woke up confused, not really understanding where she was or who other people were (whether this was in her own home or later in a care home). But she still had lots of fragmented memories and still knew the names of her family and friends - just mixed them up and remembered them at different stages in their lives (depending how old she was on a particular day!). We realised quite early on that it didn't do any good at all to tell her when someone had died. She would not remember from one day to the next, from one hour to the next. She got really upset - and then stayed upset all day without understanding why she was upset in the first place. Then she would not remember the fact of their death anyway. So, we continued to talk about them as if they were still alive whenever she mentioned anyone who had died, which made her really happy. She did not come to my Dad's funeral as it would really have confused her and her well being was our central concern. She continued to talk about him in the present tense (that being her present on any particular day) - she always had the feeling that he was going to imminently visit her (although sometimes as her brother or friend from the forces !).
Sometimes people will give you advice who don't understand at all about dementia, thinking that it is someone's right to know about these things, but in practice I think it's not fair or practical to do so. My Dad was in the same home as Mum for about a year and the staff continued to talk about him if Mum was in a mind to do so - but always in the present tense. It was easy to say that he had just popped out to get her something if she wanted to know where he was.
Hope this helps...