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Should I tell my mom her sister passed away?

Answered by Karen Garner

July 11, 2016

My mother is being cared for in a group home for dementia and she also can't walk. She still knows who I am but is very confused about a lot of things. Her sister passed away a few days ago who lives far away. Can I tell my mother or is it best not to?

This is a most difficult question with answers that can go either way. The first question back to you is, Does your Mom have a physician or social worker at the home she is residing in that you can discuss this issue with? Without knowing your Mom’s mental state day to day, this is a tough call.

There are many who will say not to tell her because it will be protecting her. There are also many who will argue that it is her right to know and after all…wouldn’t you want to know?

This being said, most likely, should you tell your Mom her sister passed away, she will become sad. It is nice to protect her from this sadness, but that is part of life. It is also highly likely your Mom will forget her sister passed away and you will either end up telling her this same sad news over and over or eventually stop telling her.

Without knowing exactly what her cognitive ability is as far as recalling recent information and solely based on your question information, you can tell her once, console her and support her, talk about her sister and learn some memories you may not have heard before and then going forward either change the subject, re-tell her with the understanding she will become upset again or completely ignore the fact her sister has died and not bring it up. Part of this equation is you. What are you comfortable with and what kind of guilt will you live with if you don’t or if you do tell her?

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. October 3, 2016 at 03:08 pm
    Posted by Sheila Guy

    I asked my Daddy's doctor what to do in case my mother passed away first. I was so glad I did because my mother did pass away before my daddy. The doctor told me tell him ONCE then just make up excuses as to where she was when he asked for her. He said why put him through the pain over and over when he will not remember in a few minutes. That is what we do when he asks, we say "She is gone to the store, church, beauty parlor," it satisfies him and goes on.
  2. July 18, 2016 at 07:12 pm
    Posted by Jen Schuler

    I think it is best to use your own judgement. Every person is different and will handle news like that in different ways. You know your family member best so I would use your own judgement. My grandmother has dementia and was in a nursing home with my grandfather. My grandfather recently passed away and my family tried to explain to my grandmother, but she doesn't process things the way she used to. Five minutes later she was asking where my grandfather was, so we now tell her he is running errands and she drops the subject.
  3. July 18, 2016 at 06:38 pm
    Posted by Yvette Grabowski

    When two of my mother's sisters passed away we brought her to the wakes. She didn't even know who they were. So when she asked about her sisters at a later date, we just told her they were at work or someplace else. We didn't want to take the chance of upsetting her. She excepted the explanation so that's what we go with.
  4. July 18, 2016 at 05:17 pm
    Posted by Jeanne Mckeever

    My mothers only sister died while my Mom was in AD. She grimaced her little face for a second and said "well that is the way it goes" It did not visibly impact her in any way. Her and her sister were very close before AD.
  5. July 18, 2016 at 05:16 pm
    Posted by SandraKThacker

    My Mom did not participate and the more people around her the more agitated she got and would say a phrase or two that would offend.Some people aren't forgiving.You know your family better than anyone Prayers

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