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  1. #1
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    Feb. 14, 2003
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    Default Elderly parent with severe "forgetfullness" --how to converse?

    My mom is coming 84 this spring, health is failing and her mind is "going" as they say. Not Alzheimers, just old-age related dementia, according to her doctor(s). She is getting very confused about everyday things: when church is, who people are (including me on occasion), days of the week, where things are; the usual.

    I am struggling with how to talk with her when she's asking, for example, "where's Beth?". Now, Beth is her sister, who lives hours away and with whom we have sporadic contact. I tell her I don't know. I know she thinks I'm another of her sisters at that point. She also has trouble realizing I don't live "at home" (haven't for years) and gets very upset when I try to explain that I have my own home.

    How do you hold a conversation? do you correct her? do you "go with it" and lie? She gets upset when I redirect her "No, mom, today is Tuesday, not Friday" in a GENTLE tone--I'm really not short with her or talking down to her.

    This is not going to get better, and she lives by herself (that's a whole other issue...best not discussed here!!) and I am her primary helper--drive her to the grocery, manage her meds, help with her bills, make sure she's getting to appointments and the like.
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    You are right, it seems that it may not be safe for her, in her confused situation, to be alone any more, regardless of how to talk to her.

    For conversations, well, once under direct supervision, where she won't get in trouble walking off or falling down, it is best just to go along with whatever she is saying.
    Glad she is not becoming anxious when she is confused, so just try going with the flow.
    Grandma passed on at 99 and from about 96, she thought we were going every place horseback or with the buggy, forgot what motorized vehicles are.
    So, we just nodded to whatever she was saying and still had very nice conversations with plenty of fun from all kinds of old stories.

    I am not sure there is a one size fits all in those situations.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2005
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    Back to Normal.. or as close as I'll ever get
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    9,594

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    I know you only asked about holding a conversation, but really, if Mom is unaware of her surroundings she may not be safe living by herself much longer.

    Look into getting Medicare to pay for a Housekeeper - meaning someone who will visit her at least once a week, fix meals, do laundry, shopping, etc AND monitor her mental status. This could be helpful not only giving you a break, but in getting Mom into some sort of Assisted Living when that becomes necessary.

    I agree with Bluey - mostly you can just roll with it when she's confused.
    But the confusion could bleed over into not recalling if a stove was left on, water running or something else that could balloon into a dangerous situation.

    DH's Mom became a nightowl who would stay up watching TV until 2 or 3A, then go visiting the neighbors. We got several middle-of-the-night calls to come get her - one in the dead of Winter with her in just a housecoat & slippers.
    TG that neighbor was kind enough to take her in until we could come and bring her home. TGX2 she recalled our ph# so he could reach us!

    For my Dad it was his diminished hearing that became the problem.
    He stubbornly insisted he did not need a hearing aid even when I jokingly told him maybe WE (family) did!
    Not a huge problem until his driving was impacted by hearing loss.
    TG (again) he made the decision to stop driving and siwtched to a motorized scooter.
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009
    Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2002
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    Default

    Hugs - this is not easy. My Dad is 86 & lives alone - by choice. I find myself trying to redirect conversations - a lot. Sometimes he just wants to argue. When this happens, I just tell him that I love him too much to fight. There are many times when I just walk out of the room & take a deep breath. We cross off the days on his calendar & that helps him keep track of time. I write down a lot of notes for him as to what time I work until, what time I leave the house, etc. It is exhausting, but I think it's much harder to be in his shoes (than mine). There are resources out there that medicare pays for. My problem is that my Dad fires them as fast as we hire them. Again, hugs - it isn't easy - but you're not alone.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 25, 2007
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    1,326

    Default

    I used to do volunteer work in a nursing home and family members often caused great distress for the residents by insisting on correcting them and trying to get them to remember things accurately. It is much more compassionate to go with the flow, if a resident thinks they are getting ready for a USO dance in the 40's, don't correct them, ask them what they are going to wear, what is their favorite song, do they like to dance. etc etc. I know as a relative you have a lot invested in accurate memories, but that is your need, not your mothers. Based on your post I would say she is rapidly approaching (if not already there) the stage where it will not be safe for her to be on her own. I have dealt with this with my parents as well and I know it is very difficult. Best of luck to you both.


    11 members found this post helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
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    between the barn and the pond
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ponyclubrocks View Post
    I used to do volunteer work in a nursing home and family members often caused great distress for the residents by insisting on correcting them and trying to get them to remember things accurately. It is much more compassionate to go with the flow, if a resident thinks they are getting ready for a USO dance in the 40's, don't correct them, ask them what they are going to wear, what is their favorite song, do they like to dance. etc etc. I know as a relative you have a lot invested in accurate memories, but that is your need, not your mothers. Based on your post I would say she is rapidly approaching (if not already there) the stage where it will not be safe for her to be on her own. I have dealt with this with my parents as well and I know it is very difficult. Best of luck to you both.
    Yes.

    Correcting her upsets you after it upsets her. Roll with it.

    And she may not be far from needing skilled care. That is NOT a reflection on the care you give, not at all. I have a coworker whose 88 YO grandmother went out a window of a second floor apartment, went down the fire escape, and was lost for three days. Her scent went cold where she crossed an urban creek. The searchers finally found her, AND another elderly and confused woman, in the woods. You don't need that sort of scare.

    I'm sorry



  7. #7
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    Feb. 27, 2004
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    Yes, you go with the flow. If she asks about "Beth" say last we heard she was fine, next time "she's doing well". Don't upset yourself trying to explain, just to have her ask you again.

    You also have to stop expecting her to act like the person you know as "Mother". If you expect her to do and say what she did before you will just be disappointed.

    I remember my sister telling me about spending the morning looking for the car keys with her MIL. The keys were in sis's pocket. They would look every where possible then a few minutes a later she'd ask again and they would look all over again. Keys were taken away because even though she "promised" not to drive, there was always some very important reason she had to .

    I've always thought it would be easier to care for a "stranger" because you have no expectations. If you could trade with someone else and take care of each others parent , wouldn't that be a hoot. You definitely need a sense of humor going through this.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2001
    Posts
    15,232

    Default

    http://www.amazon.com/The-36-Hour-Da.../dp/0446610410

    I read this book after my dad suffered a stroke that resulted in vascular dementia.

    You might find it very helpful.

    In a nutshell you just go where she goes...if she asks about Beth, give her an answer that will make sense to her and not upset her rather than trying to bring her in the moment.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LMH View Post
    http://www.amazon.com/The-36-Hour-Da.../dp/0446610410

    I read this book after my dad suffered a stroke that resulted in vascular dementia.

    You might find it very helpful.

    In a nutshell you just go where she goes...if she asks about Beth, give her an answer that will make sense to her and not upset her rather than trying to bring her in the moment.
    Yes, that.
    I had to learn that on my own, would have been so helpful if someone had told me right off.
    Grandma insisted I go get something to the nearby "music room", thinking of the house she grew up in almost 100 years ago and at first I kept trying to say we didn't have a music room any more and that would confuse her.

    That is where I learned to just go with whatever she wanted and not try to explain any more.

    Maybe you can find a way to do that also.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2008
    Location
    Vermont
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    Default

    My beautiful Grandmother lived alone until she died, when she was 95. I still mourn her (it was recent). That being said, she was still mentally there. No forgetfulness at all... I agree with others here that say the time is approaching for your mother to have skilled care. We were lucky - my G'ma didn't need it - she was still writing to editors and having columns published. But you have to ask yourself - if something happens and you cannot help her (tap running, stove on, etc.) - at what point do you decide to put effective safety stops in place?

    GL and my heart goes out to you -



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb. 18, 2011
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    Phillipsburg Ohio
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    Default

    My Grandfather,who was practically like a dad to me, was perfectly aware and oriented- drove, lived at home with Grandma, volunteered at the Air Force Museum every week- then he fell and broke his hip. From that moment until he died 4 months later, having never retured home from the hospital, he was only once lucid-for about an hour. I stayed with him every night for those four months. It is better to just go along with it-some days he knew where he was some days not. Some days he asked about long dead family and friends. Sometimes he thought my mom was a little kid again- he often didn't know who our family members were. As little sense as he made, he always knew my name. The last thing he said to me before he died was Kris,love you. I am so grateful for those 4 months, dementia and all. I miss him badly every day. Just go along with your mom, love her, and treasure the time you can spend with her- it is so often shorter than we think.
    ~Former Pet Store Manager (10yrs)
    ~Vintage Toy Dealer (rememberswhen.us)
    ~Vet Tech Student
    Mom to : 1 Horse, 4 Dogs, 3 Cats, 6 (Former) Stepkids



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2007
    Location
    Sunny Florida
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    Default

    And my mom, who went into a nursing home at 89 because she could no longer safely stay at home, only recognized me one day in the 6 months she was there. I visited every day, she was well cared forand comfortable. At first I was a sister ( she didn't have any sisters), then I was her mother, and finally, I was simply a stranger who came to visit. At first I tried to correct her, then I just went with it and talked about other things. We went for long walks, talked about flowers or birds or whatever. Her brother and his wife visited one day, and when they left she said to me " who were those people? I didn't much care for them." But the few times my husband (ex now) visited, she new him at once!!!

    Do the best you can, and don't take any of it to heart. Make every day you have with them as special as you can. Hugs to you.
    "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun. 30, 2008
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    at work and the barn...middle of nowhere PA
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    247

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    Another thought, my grandmother is 92 and also has age-related dimentia (or sometimes we swear she just does it on purpose!). Her doctor is a little, uh, tough, and began insisting she stop driving, move into an assisted living facility, and get on Alzheimer's medication. We took the car away (actually I did, I needed it, and we just never gave it back to her to remove the temptation) and got her on the meds, which helped her a LOT, even though she does not have Alzheimer's. She still lives alone and my parents visit her every few days (if not daily) to help her and get the meds all set up. I'd see if she could get Alzheimer's meds, it may help a lot.

    Ps, if you do go with Alzheimer's meds, get generic, the price difference between brand name and generic is astronomical-> $300 for brand, about $15 for generic.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2003
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    Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
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    Default

    Thank you for the comforting and helpful words! It has been a trial. Mom is fiercely determined to not go into a "nursing home". She has broken both hips, and faithfully uses her walker around the house. She does not drive (voluntarily gave up her keys). She has a neighbor who comes in everyday to get her mail and check on her. I phone in the AM and PM if I can't get in to see her. Her cleaning ladies come weekly and do all sorts of chores beyond cleaning ( I think both of them come, and spend an hour, mostly talking to her, bless them--there's hardly 20 minutes of cleaning!) Her adult grandson, and my local brother also visit once a week, but the day-to-day fetch/carry/shop/help falls to me.

    She has really good spells of total "with-it-ness" then these periods of situational dementia kick in. A nurse explained that term to me: take these oldsters out of their comfort zone and they lose their grip on the here and now. Hospitalizations completely make her lose it.

    I know she needs to go into care, my brothers do too, but mom is adamant that she's fine. I guess it is time to drop the hammer on her and tell her she's going.

    She still smokes. This is an issue for a care facility placement. Oh, and she gets belligerent and hateful when her mind goes wandering. I sent flowers to the nurses on the hospital floor the last time she was in....
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!



  15. #15
    Join Date
    May. 20, 2005
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    Desert Southwest
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    Thank your stars your Mom gave up driving voluntarily! Both my folks did, too. Dad did when he realized he could not tell a curb from a sidewalk and Mom when she drove into "something", damaged her car, and managed to return home in one piece. A cop and a wrecker happened to be on site when she ran into the whatever-it-was. Miraculously, she was not ticketed or taken into custody, but allowed to continue! Yikes!

    I had a cousin who developed dementia from advancing Parkinson's Disease. He also was a terror on the roads around Las Animas, CO. More than one resident down there has told me they'd get off the road when they saw him coming! Fortunately, he decided on his own to come into town to a nearby assisted living facility -- and that's where he happily stayed till he died. I visited him nearly every day. We are blessed this facility is less than a mile away. My parents moved to the same place about a year and a half ago.

    Mom began losing her grip about a year before her final heart attack. Sometimes she could be incredibly mean -- as if a different personality took over. Other times she was just Good Ol' Mom. Dad is now in Long Term Care at the same facility where my cousin and Mom passed. Most days he is lucid, displays his old sense of humor and shows kindness to everyone he meets. But in the past he's been beset with infections and some of them can trigger dementia-like symptoms. When this happened I was alarmed and very frightened that the end was near. He rallied back every time and has stabilized. Evenings he is not at his best. Mornings he's most like his old self.

    I also recommend "The 36-Hour Day" for anyone facing dementia with a family member. It's been a bedside book for several years now as I've seen aging relatives through their last days. The book will help you understand what's happening in your Mom's brain and how it affects her perceptions. It will guide you through coping skills, avoiding fights,choosing care, whether it's in-home nursing, in a skilled nursing facility, adult daycare and so on. The book also suggests how to discuss such decisions with the afflicted relative and how to make the transition easier. Often, staffers at nursing facilities can help with the transition. Start touring these places now so you know what your options are. Find one that's close, if you can, so you can visit often and monitor your mother's care.

    The advice you've been given is right. Don't argue with her, redirect the conversation or simply agree with her. Her perceptions are real to her; you won't convince her otherwise. Hugs and best wishes to you and all your family; it's a rough road ahead, but you're doing right by your mother.

    Remember to take care of YOURSELF, too! Ask for help from other relatives or neighbors if you feel overwhelmed. You're no good to anyone if you're sick or overwrought!



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec. 2, 2009
    Location
    Michigan
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    388

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    This is so appropriate. My mom is 78; she's a wonderful, strong woman who still does volunteer work, but she's also slowing down and having "moments" of forgetfulness, or her memory is not quite what the rest of us siblings remember. And she gets upset if we correct her; after reading this I'll just nod. But she's also having nasty moments; she particularly dislikes my brother's SO (they have two kids together and live together); when they visit (only for 3 days at a time) by the third day she walks around, in front of my brother's SO, saying things like "She's driving me crazy." I think next visit I'll suggest they all stay at my house, and then go over to my mother's (she lives 10 miles away). I do know she's told us that she does not want to be a burden to us, and will go into an assisted living home, but we don't know where or when (she's very old-fashioned and feels it's none of our business).

    Now, my MIL is another matter...my husband's brother was going to take her in if needed; but his wife was just diagnosed with lymphomic cancer (had her tonsils removed and they found it), so we don't know where MIL is going to end up as we won't have her here (sneaks smoking all the time and we won't lose our house to a fire). Tricky situation as her husband is also declining; his kids are losers and won't be able to take them in; I see us finding an assisted living home where they live.

    Sigh. I do appreciate these posts - don't feel so alone with aging parents.



  17. #17
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    Dec. 27, 1999
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    Midland, NC, USA
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    How about when they make stuff up out of thin air? The other day my mom called to ask me why my older half-brother did not believe her when she told him that my younger (full) brother was not HER son. (they both live with her). She said he just showed up one day. Older half-brother was eight or nine at the time and remembers her being pregnant, going to hospital etc. This is just the latest in a string of bizarre phone calls. wtf? Is this typical of Alzheimer's or senile dementia?



  18. #18
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    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    A very good friend has his 90+ father in an assisted living apartment.
    He goes every morning before work to fix breakfast and eat with him and every evening to fix supper and play dominoes for a good 2 hours.
    His father doesn't remember much, but he still can beat him at dominoes!



  19. #19
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    Mar. 9, 2006
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    I'm going thru the dementia thing with that with my dad right now. He usually thinks I'm my sister. (And no, we aren't twins, LOL.) My sister has power of attorney and handles all his day to day affairs. He will ask me to deal with all kinds of things my sister handles: call the pharmacy to refill a prescription, review his homeowner's insurance, and so forth.

    I handle the situation by being agreeable and then diverting the conversation. "Oh, are you out of XXX? Let me write a note so I remember to pick more up when I'm out. That reminds me, how is your Kleenex supply holding up?" (And then we go inventory the Kleenex, and I set the note aside for sis.) "Oh, did the insurance agent just send you this form? Yikes, this is long. Let me read it over and think about it when my head is a little clearer in the morning. I'm probably going to have some questions for your agent. That reminds me, how are we doing for stamps and envelopes? Do I need to pick up some more?" (And then we go to inventory the stamps, and I set the form aside for sis.)



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2006
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    My grandfather is 3 months away from his 93rd birthday, and has declined A LOT mentally and physically over the last year. He's constantly confused about everything from what day & time it is (am or pm) to what language to use (he was fluent in 4). About a month ago, he called me at work on my cell phone, thinking that I was my mother. First it took him a good minute to figure out who I was ("BES? BES? BES.....LastName? The daughter of BES'sMom?"), then he couldn't understand why I wasn't at home with my parents and couldn't just put her on the phone. I haven't lived at home for over a decade. I think he thought I was 5 (I'm 32).

    It's easy to say just go with it, but unfortunately, a lot of times you can't just play along. It's one thing to smile and nod when he says his brother (who has been dead for 20 years) visited. It's another to pretend that 1am is 1pm, and sure you'll be over in 30 minutes just like you promised.

    My family has found that it's best to keep things very simple and concrete, and if we have to "correct" him, to say it in a very flat, matter of fact statement, with no "don't you remember" or "maybe you forgot" qualifiers, which seem to provoke him.

    Sometimes it's best to take a good day, bad day philosophy. Christmas Day, Grandpa didn't know who I was. I think he thought I was my aunt, mainly because he kept asking me about Florida, and my aunt moved there recently. Two days prior, he had a semi-normal conversation with my sister. Today, he asked my mother if all the grandchildren made it home safely and expressed worry that we'd get stuck in the snow.

    Hugs,
    BES
    Proudly owned by 2 chestnut mares
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