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Helping An Elderly Family Member Cope with Loss
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Helping An Elderly Family Member Cope with Loss

  Recently my uncle passed on. My grandmother (who is his sister, she is in her 90's) has minor dementia
and I was informed if not told about this will loss her memory of it. I was also told she becomes emotionally distressed if reminded of it so I was advised not to bring it up. I will be visiting her soon. I am confused as how to approach the issue as because he was a close family member she might bring him up and ask how he is doing from time to time. She is doing well for her condition in general, has appropriate medical follow up, lives at home with a home attendant and has the supports and services she needs.  I do want to be respectful of her and her disability and would appreciate any ideas people have.  
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187666_tn?1331176945
We have a similar situation with my father-in-law. My MIL passed away last year, we were there with her and my FIL. Since then his health has gone downhill as well as his mind. Some days he seems a bit more alert but will make comments like, "Did you know my wife passed away?"  Of course his wife is also my husband's mom but he just gently replies, Yes, Dad I know.  Or other days FIL will ask where his wife is. Then we remind him that she was very sick and passed away last year. He looks a bit confused and then accepts the information or maybe even remembers. I don't know. The main thing is we stay calm, be honest and don't say a lot. Some people get frustrated and say things like, "Dad, don't you remember that she died over a year ago? You were right there."  That just embarrasses the person who is already struggling and that upsets them even more.

As for your grandmother, if she doesn't bring it up, then let it go. If she asks about him, then be honest but brief. Let her process it in her own way. If she happens to get upset, just give her a hug and tell her you miss him too.
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3112530_tn?1342559764
I know this is a difficult situation to be in. I read your post and wish I could offer some sound advise but it sounds to me, like you are making the right decision for the moment. I would advise one thing.
Watch your eye contact. If there is any deception in the eyes, she may pick up on this. Be strong. Face her with strong eye contact so she cannot read what is underneath. Many a person can see things in the eyes that reveal the truth so that may be your strongest point at the moment.
Ask the medical staff how she can deal with this loss on of good day. On her bad days, let her believe what she wants to believe. I will admit, I know nothing about dementia, only what I have heard and I see this is a difficult situation to be in.
Wish I could offer more help.
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187666_tn?1331176945
We have a similar situation with my father-in-law. My MIL passed away last year, we were there with her and my FIL. Since then his health has gone downhill as well as his mind. Some days he seems a bit more alert but will make comments like, "Did you know my wife passed away?"  Of course his wife is also my husband's mom but he just gently replies, Yes, Dad I know.  Or other days FIL will ask where his wife is. Then we remind him that she was very sick and passed away last year. He looks a bit confused and then accepts the information or maybe even remembers. I don't know. The main thing is we stay calm, be honest and don't say a lot. Some people get frustrated and say things like, "Dad, don't you remember that she died over a year ago? You were right there."  That just embarrasses the person who is already struggling and that upsets them even more.

As for your grandmother, if she doesn't bring it up, then let it go. If she asks about him, then be honest but brief. Let her process it in her own way. If she happens to get upset, just give her a hug and tell her you miss him too.
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144586_tn?1284669764
This depends upon the degree of dementia and the patient. If she is a christian and the death is recent it is appropriate to bring a mass card, hold her hand, and offer condolances. You would be surprised how much of a sense of reality people with dementia have. There are two issues here. One is the benefit (and there is psychological benefit) for someone to offer condolances and prayers, even if you are a non-believer. This must be balanced against the possibility the person may be upset. But a person can also become upset when a relative visits who knows of a death and does not offer condolance. Failure to do so can be construed as "not caring", at a time when a person needs all the support in the world. It is appropriate and humane to do so. If you do this, be prepared to say something positive about the deceased, recalling a day when they helped you or something nice they did while they were alive.
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