Sometimes, a person suffering from dementia forgets that a spouse or other loved one has died. They may ask where the person is, or insist that they want to visit them. For the person with dementia, being told that this person is dead can be like hearing it for the first time, along with all the grief that comes with it.

When this happens, should you tell your loved one the truth, or should you protect them from the pain?

First, you will need to gauge your loved one’s ability to remember. If your loved one does not remember what you share about the deceased person from visit to visit, you may be able to use a memory or a story about the person to explain their absence in a way that satisfies your loved one’s curiosity, but yet does not upset them. It may be hard not to think of this approach like lying, but your loved one’s reality is much different from yours. If you can try to understand their reality first, perhaps it will help you let go of the guilt you feel from not telling them the cold, hard truth. It may be what’s necessary to bring them comfort.