Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Your Truth: Dementia and Grief

I apologize, once again, for my on-going silence on this blog. I've received a number of emails from readers encouraging me to post again. I appreciate the dedicated interest in this blog from my readers.

I recently attended a fascinating lecture on dementia and grief. Inspired by this lecture, I am going to pose a hypothetical scenario for your consideration. As per my standard format, after the scenario, I am going to ask some questions and will later post my response to the scenario.

Mrs. Horton is an 86 year old with middle stage dementia. She is no longer able to recognize family members nor dress herself. She is able to walk, using a walker, and frequently gets lost in the hallways of her nursing home.

Mrs. Horton's 61 year old son recently died of heart attack. Prior to his death, her son had come to visit her in the nursing home at least three times every week. Mrs. Horton was informed repeatedly of her son's death, but she does not have the short-term memory to retain this information. She asks where her son is multiple times every day.

1. Do you repeatedly inform Mrs. Horton that her son died, even though this news is distressing to her? Would telling her the truth be retraumatizing her or banging her over the head with the news?

2. Understanding that disclosing this news can be distressing to both Mrs. Horton and to the bearer of this news, what are some different ways you might respond to her repeated request for her son?


Anonymous said...

I would redirect her and talk about some other subject.

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Melaina RN, PHN, MS, CNS, ACHPN said...

Bummer! I lost all of the comments I had when I changed the format for my page. But some of the ideas I suggested were to create a space in her room with momentos of her son. Acknowledge the feelings behind her question, "It sounds like you are missing your son." And engaging her in conversation about him. "Tell me about your son."

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