Our dad is in a memory care unit of a nursing home, after developing Alzheimer’s about five years ago. Our mother, who visited him frequently, passed away suddenly. Should we tell our dad she died?
The dignity of the human person should always be preserved, so yes, your dad deserves to be told, at least once, that your mom has died. That being said, bringing the news about your mother’s passing to your dad who has Alzheimer’s is one of the hardest tasks you may ever face in his care.
The Washington University Aging and Disability Resource Center provides tips and strategies in communicating a death to an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia:
The affected individual may cry, grieve, or respond negatively, but it is their honest and desirable response to a significant loss.
If they ask for details, tell them; if they seem to forget, let it go. Even in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals are capable of comprehending at some level.
Always treat the affected individual with simplicity, compassion and honesty.
Tell the affected individual at their best time of day in a quiet place free of distractions, television and other people. Take the person’s hand and don’t be afraid to let them see you cry. The non-verbal expression of tears is a powerful communicator.
If the individual is capable of moving, you may want to take them to the funeral depending on behavior and cultural preferences.
Reminisce with the affected individual about the person who has passed in order to establish the link, but avoid saying, “You remember Mary, right?”
Remember that telling the affected individual is something you need. The individual is a member of the family who you need for moral support. You would be amazed at how often even nonverbal individuals. with Alzheimer’s will stroke your hand or murmur words of comfort so you can grieve.
Your dad will most likely forget that you have told him, so he may ask you many times where she is or what happened to her. You are the best judge of how to respond, keeping in mind that continually telling him of your mother’s death is news that will be very fresh each time you tell him, as it was the first moment.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, email@example.com, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.