ASK DR. MINDY™
MINDY KIM-MILLER, MD, PhD
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I don’t know how to respond to my mother when she tells me she has been talking to her parents (deceased for 30 yrs) and they want her to come home. I try to explain that they are in heaven, happy and we will see them again someday. Sometimes that works, but other times she insists on trying to telephone them or wants me to take her to them. She also asks me when my mother died. I remind her that she is my mother and how happy I am that she is. She also often confuses me with other relatives. She seems to be becoming much more focused on those close to her who have passed on frequently asking who in our family is deceased. How should I respond?
Unfortunately, losing memories about family members is part of the cognitive loss that people with Alzheimer’s experience as the illness progresses. It is also common for those with dementia to become obsessed with certain subjects, such as death and deceased family members.
Depending on the stage of the disease, trying to reason with someone with Alzheimer’s can be futile and even cause agitation in the person. So you can try to reorient your mother to reality, but do not insist on correcting her incorrect beliefs or misperceptions if your efforts distress her.
One way to respond to such behavior is by using reassurance and distraction. As you are already doing, reassure your mother that things are fine and that she is loved. Then try to distract her with another topic or activity that she enjoys. Possibilities include playing music or a game, going for a walk, offering a snack, discussing topics in the news that can lead to reminiscing, looking at photos, or admiring something beautiful.
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