Stop taking her 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.”

A couple of years ago, I created an animated YouTube video based on an unfortunate sentence I was hearing a lot. You can watch that video below.

WHAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version of this awful story. Stop taking people living 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.

We never want to try and “prove” a fact to a person living with dementia.

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.” 

You’re Embracing Their RealityTM. You’re living in their truth. Spending your time trying to remind them of a loss isn’t going to work, and it’s not fair to them.

Consider that, to be able to grieve, you need a few things: time and the ability to remember.

Many people living with dementia have trouble understanding time and do not have the short-term memory needed to grieve appropriately.

When they find out a loved one has died, it’s like hearing it for the first time…every time.

Watch the video here:

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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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