My mom, who has mid to late stage Alz was recently hospitalized with pneumonia. I had been her caregiver. My question is what do I do when mom cries when I'm leaving, she tells me she's afraid and scared ? This is killing me, I can't stand to think she's afraid and alone. Is there anything I can say or do to are her feel better. I cry all the way home and can't sleep at night. It must be terrifying for her. I feel I've let her down.

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What is the plan after she finishes up at the hospital, will you take her back to your home? In any case, I will give you the advice I give to everyone who is leaving after visiting a loved one with dementia: try to leave without telling her you are “going home.” So you could say, “I’m going right now but I’ll be back very soon.” Chances are good that she recovers fairly quickly (no matter what you say) and goes to sleep. You can’t take the guilt on yourself: she has to get better and you can’t possibly stay at the hospital all day and night. I also recommend setting up shorter visitor hours and maybe visiting earlier on in the day. She’s probably sundowning at night which makes your leaving even harder for her.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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