Dear Family and Friends,
I was chatting with a friend recently about her mom, who has Alzheimer’s. She was trying to decide whether to tell her mom that a dear family friend had passsed away. What a difficult question during an already difficult time.
We talked about how much her mom remembers from day to day, and even from hour to hour, and she said her mom is in the stage where she often re-asks the same question several times an hour.
Here are some options:
- Tell mom, as gently as possible, and see how she reacts. If she is extremely upset or distraught, that’s a clue that perhaps you don’t need to re-tell her when she forgets.
- Don’t tell mom. If she asks about the friend, just say something vague, such as: “She’s away right now” or, “She’s with some long-lost friends and family.” Neither is untruthful, and they don’t add to mom’s grief.
- Don’t tell mom. Just try to avoid the question by changing the subject. Again, see how mom reacts. If she keeps pursuing the question, you can resort to either of the above options.
I didn’t include as an option telling mom the whole truth every time she asks. I feel that it is unnecessary to make her go through the trauma of learning such sad news over and over, even if she doesn’t remember going through it the first time.
Neither would I avoid showing mom pictures of the friend, or talking about the friend. I try to bring up good memories as much as possible when visiting my own mother-in-law, and other friends who have Alzheimer’s.
Still, sometimes it’s hard to remember that a person with Alzheimer’s is NOT being stubborn. It’s hard not to think, “Gosh, I just told you that. Come on…just try a little harder.”
But stubborn is an attitude. And Alzheimer’s is an irreversible disease. What’s more, it’s ultimately fatal. That’s why I believe in protecting the person with Alzheimer’s from bad news they won’t remember a few hours or minutes later. It’s easy to get frustrated sometimes, but I always feel so much more uplifted when I’ve been able to leave a visit knowing that my loved one has experienced as many moments of joy as possible during my time there.
What do you think?