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How do you redirect if patient believes spouse is still alive?

My mother-in-law believes her husband is alive. At first, we would say "he is gone" and that seemed to suffice. Then we had to say he died, and she wouldn't get too upset, but seemed to understand. now that her Alzheimers has gotten worse, we were told to tell her "dad left the room" or "he'll be right back" or "I don't know" and quickly redirect. This does not work. My husband today had to tell her the truth and explain that dad has been gone for years. She cried and got very upset, reliving his death. Please help with ideas on how to handle this in the future.
Status: Open    Jan 13, 2016 - 02:20 PM

Dementia, Caregiving

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Jan 19, 2016 - 10:40 AM

I understand how frustrating this can be, and while redirection doesn't work every time, it is a very good tool to use. May I suggest using a box filled with little trinkets that she loves and maybe a small photo album with pictures of her family. You can pull it out any time she begins to be agitated, and she can hold and play with the items and chat about the memories attached. Even in later stages, just plundering through the box might be calming for her. Although I know it is hard, try to always stay calm. She will take her emotional cues from you and your husband, so you want to set a calm tone as much as possible. If one of you begins to feel overwhelmed, step away for a few minutes and collect your self.

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By Melusine on Nov 05, 2016 - 04:05 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

While it is heartbreaking that they do not often remember the loss of those that have gone on, conversely-they will not continue to grieve either. My mother's dreams are so real to her, that she cannot believe that her parents and brother are deceased. I have a picture of their gravestones and those we took by their open caskets with her decades ago. I show her these and then she seems to accept it. She seems comforted to know they were taken care of til the end, so she stops fretting. Her shoulders carried such weight for those she loved, this seems to help lighten the load.

By Melusine on Nov 05, 2016 - 04:16 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Also, while my mother cannot remember much, she can sense a lie. When she is so dependent on us and our judgement, it would be horrible to be caught out in a lie (no matter how well meaning) as she searches our faces and eyes trying to see if she should believe us. Being loved and feeling safe in her ability to trust us, must be an absolute. We cannot disregard the tangled mental back roads that still exist. Sometime she will put 2 and 2 together, and if it doesn't add up to 4, you destroy her trust in anything you do. Who wants that? Honesty is always the best policy---in my opinion.

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Voted Best Answer

Jan 19, 2016 - 10:40 AM

I understand how frustrating this can be, and while redirection doesn't work every time, it is a very good tool to use. May I suggest using a box filled with little trinkets that she loves and maybe a small photo album with pictures of her family. You can pull it out any time she begins to be agitated, and she can hold and play with the items and chat about the memories attached. Even in later stages, just plundering through the box might be calming for her. Although I know it is hard, try to always stay calm. She will take her emotional cues from you and your husband, so you want to set a calm tone as much as possible. If one of you begins to feel overwhelmed, step away for a few minutes and collect your self.

Source: 

Comments (2) | New Comment

By Melusine on Nov 05, 2016 - 04:05 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

While it is heartbreaking that they do not often remember the loss of those that have gone on, conversely-they will not continue to grieve either. My mother's dreams are so real to her, that she cannot believe that her parents and brother are deceased. I have a picture of their gravestones and those we took by their open caskets with her decades ago. I show her these and then she seems to accept it. She seems comforted to know they were taken care of til the end, so she stops fretting. Her shoulders carried such weight for those she loved, this seems to help lighten the load.

By Melusine on Nov 05, 2016 - 04:16 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Also, while my mother cannot remember much, she can sense a lie. When she is so dependent on us and our judgement, it would be horrible to be caught out in a lie (no matter how well meaning) as she searches our faces and eyes trying to see if she should believe us. Being loved and feeling safe in her ability to trust us, must be an absolute. We cannot disregard the tangled mental back roads that still exist. Sometime she will put 2 and 2 together, and if it doesn't add up to 4, you destroy her trust in anything you do. Who wants that? Honesty is always the best policy---in my opinion.

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Answers

Jan 16, 2016 - 06:31 AM

I will give you the same advice...
Do not tell her that he has died.
He went to the store,
He went to work,
He went to the Doctor's
He had to take the car to get it fixed
Notice they are all places where it will take a while for him to come back.
If you were to say ..he left the room..that means he is still in the house or he can hear if she were to call out.
If she is mobile and can help with a project or task say let's do this...while he is gone. Then start making bread, cookies, soup or what ever. Get her involved in doing something like measuring or cutting (if she can still use knives) this will take her focus in another direction. You can knead bread dough for a long time, let it rise then have to do it again before you have to let it rise and bake it. This could be a several hour project and all these projects have phases where you don't have to do anything then you have to tend to them again. So you can put a baking project on "hold" then come back to it when you need redirection.
Going for a walk is also a good idea, gerat to get a bit of fresh air, some exercise and a change of topic.


Jan 18, 2016 - 07:41 AM

Great advice, however, this does not work. We have tried everything you have mentioned below (besides baking bread) but redirect, start a project, do a puzzle, whatever it takes. Unfortunately, it seems that at times she is so lucid and she knows we are lying to her. Of course, she forgets in an instant, but she will continue to ask about her husband and where he is. Thank you thought for the explanation.

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By mmbbhassing on Nov 05, 2016 - 02:33 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Is there some long term journey he might have taken when he was alive? This might work in some instances, to say that's where he is. In a way, he has taken a long journey, we just don't know exactly where.

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