Stop taking people with dementia to the cemetery

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“Oh yeah, every time that dad forgets mom is dead, we head to the cemetery so he can see her gravestone.”

WHAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version of this awful story. Stop taking people with dementia to the cemetery. Seriously. I cringe every single time someone tells me about their “plan” to remind a loved one that their loved one is dead.

I also hear this a lot: “I keep reminding mom that her sister is dead, and sometimes she recalls it once I’ve said it.” That’s still not a good thing. Why are we trying to force people to remember that their loved ones have passed away?

If your loved one with dementia has lost track of their timeline, and forgotten that a loved one is dead, don’t remind them. What’s the point of reintroducing that kind of pain? Here’s the thing: they will forget again, and they will ask again. You’re never, ever, ever, going to “convince” them of something permanently. 

Instead, do this:

“Dad, where do you think mom is?”

When he tells you the answer, repeat that answer to him and assert that it sounds correct. For example, if he says, “I think mom is at work,” say, “Yes, that sounds right, I think she must be at work.” If he says, “I think she passed away,” say, “Yes, she passed away.” 

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

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