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Should Mom Know that her husband has died?

Our Mom is 88 and living in a memory care unit. Until fairly recently, she'd been living with Dad and they'd been married for over 67 years. He recently went into hospital with advanced congestive heart failure and didn't survive, passing away in hospice. While Mom was taken to see him in hospice, we did not bring her to the burial or the memorial service. She hasn't beed told that he died, either by family members or by staff in her faciltiy. When we visit sometimes she never mentions him, but other times she asks "where is my husband" and we've just been saying that "he's not here right now" and trying to redirect her. Part of me wants to tell her the truth, but, of course, she'll forget what I've told her and we'll go through the whole thing again the next time we see each other. What's the best, and kindest, way to deal with this situation.
Status: Open    Dec 08, 2016 - 07:25 AM


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Dec 10, 2016 - 05:19 PM

If you did not take her to the funeral services, then you have already made the decision. . . Every memory loss person is different but if she has forgotten her husband, then just leave it at that.

It is common among memory loss people to begin asking for their parents or others who have died long, long ago. This happens because the 'memory tapes' are erased backwards and distant memories become the most recent. When an 80 y/o is reminded of the death of their parents they commonly do begin grieving as if the death had just happened. They then begin going through the same painful emotional grief process as anyone UNTIL they forget all over again. Caregivers understand this and work to spare them the terrible pain of the realization of a death and do just as you have described - tell them the dead person is 'away' and will see them tomorrow.

Memory loss people live 100% in the moment. Their entire existence can last only a few minutes at a time until they reboot and have to be oriented all over again. I never saw a need to force somebody into a reality that has no meaning for them anyway. Continue doing whatever you can (telling stories, white lies, etc.) to make your mother comfortable.

Dec 11, 2016 - 04:25 AM

We have this problem with my Mom. My Dad was main caregiver but got sick and was hospitalized. Even though we brought her to hospital and even brought him home on hospice, she doesn't remember he died. She went to funeral home to make arrangements and was at the funeral but i don't think she realized what was happening. She seemed shut down. She didn't cry or express any emotions. The next day when she asked about him, we told her that he died she got hysterical. Why didn't anyone tell her!! This went on for several days with her forgetting and us reminding her until it became apparent this was not in her best interest. Now we tell her he is at work or getting coffee or playing golf...... She does get upset that she hasn't seen him for so long but then she forgets. We try to distract her and get her off the subject but sometimes it is difficult. I wish you luck this is such a horrible thing for everyone to go through! Prayers!
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By e-klacey on Dec 31, 2016 - 06:51 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

My 90 year old mother also asks where her husband and children are. Her husband died almost 22 years ago and she thinks her three children are all young school age kids. We tell her that her husband is either golfing or watching sports at a friend's house and that her kids are with him. She feels like a terrible mother when she doesn't know where her own children are. That is more difficult than her missing husband. I wish I had a better way to calm her rega ding her children. She often gets irritated that her husband is not spending time with her. If anyone has a better solution I would appreciate your input. I hope this phase doesn't last too long.

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