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Breaking bad news to mom in MC unit
Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 8:58 AM
Joined: 11/16/2021
Posts: 7

Hi there, 

I've been reading posts for some time after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers last summer.  This forum has been helpful in normalizing my anxiety and our experiences.

Long story short, mom is 69 and is somewhere between stages 5 and 6.  She's physically healthy so she's up and about and has a good bit of clarity with a lot of confusion mixed in.  She's been wandering and so last week I moved her to MC.  She doesn't understand why she is there and thinks it's temporary.  She is VERY unhappy, understandably.

My dad is 78 and declining cognitively but more so has physical concerns.  He's been falling a lot, neuropathy in his feet and has these absentee seizures.  He was hospitalized a week or so ago and so I took that opportunity to have him placed in an assisted living/personal care apartment.  It's actually on the same campus as my mom's memory care and so once they both settle (he's perfectly content with this change) he can go see her whenever he wants.

I haven't told my mom that my dad was placed in care there yet.  I'm nervous to tell her.  I'm the only child and so she tends to direct her anger and paranoia towards me.  I'm hoping to get the help of staff to help me break the news to her, but dang I am anxious about that conversation.

Any thoughts on how to tell her?  If we don't she will continue to focus on wanting to call the hospital he was in and wanting to go see him.  Am I overthinking this?  Just hoping to get some insight, validation and ideas that I've found so helpful in reading other posts   Thank you.

King Boo
Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 9:44 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 3540

So, approach this from a different angle.

There's no need to "break bad news" to Mom.  Let go of how things 'used to work', a bit.  Tackle this as more of an emerging situation.

By that, I mean - think of ways to 'couch' this news in a positive light - but only if the need arises.

If Mom is asking about Dad - "Good news!  He'll be by to visit you in a few days."  leave it at that.

Have a chat with Dad ahead of time - "telling Mom you are staying her for a while too will make her feel comforted and good. Don't tell her it is a permanent move, it will only upset her. Let's try and keep things going smoothly."   Omission, so to speak.

Fiblets are done to protect a person who can no longer reason well and process the full truth. It's not breaking marital vows, it's not deliberate mean lying.  It is done out of love.

You can sometimes go from point A to point C for our LO WD without all the rationale minutia in the middle.

For example:  My LO was very obsessive about his house, when he could go back, who was taking care of it, etc. etc. 

Our conversations went like this:  

"I'm taking care of the house!  It's all good.  And ya know what?  Paul is stopping by too and mowing the lawn.  It's all good!  I promise!"

"You're here to get stronger.  It's winter now with lots of ice - we don't want anymore fractures, right?  The food is good here, isn't it?  Let's go to dinner together now!" (protests upon move in)

"The house is good.  I saw it just yesterday! We're taking care of everything for you." (house was sold)

"Mum's doing good.  She's not here now"  (deceased spouse)

At no point did we discuss the rationale for anything.  My job was to soothe and comfort.


mommyandme (m&m)
Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 12:21 PM
Joined: 2/16/2020
Posts: 273

I’m confused at why it’s “bad news”?  

Is it because of the changes and finality of it?  I’d think she’d be happy he’s near, if she understands that.  

Forgive my ignorance, pls. 

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 1:25 PM
Joined: 7/17/2020
Posts: 183

At her stage, even if you tell her she will not retain it and will still continue to focus on wanting to call the hospital he was in and wanting to go see him. May you have peace in your decision.


Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 12:52 PM
Joined: 11/16/2021
Posts: 7

Yeah I think it's the finality of it.  

I'm also thinking that I haven't shaken off the "normal lens" with which I'm looking at everything.  I'm still mentally transitioning into all of this.  Up until memory care my mom was largely being taken care of by my dad and I only saw her about once a month (I have small children and my folks haven't been very Covid careful so I've been in a difficult position of wanting to help them but also not wanting to put my kids at risk).

The director of the MC unit is going to talk with the other nurses and get a better sense of how/what to tell my mom so that we're all using the same message.  

Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 12:53 PM
Joined: 11/16/2021
Posts: 7

I think you're probably right.  


Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2021 7:24 AM
Joined: 11/21/2021
Posts: 2

That first month or so is really hard on everybody. I was always afraid of saying the wrong thing.

As others have suggested it helps to frame things things positively, but also in the very short term. Refer to her room as an apartment rather than in assisted living or memory care; there she is part of a community rather than a retirement home. Tell her she can relax and stay the night, and that people will stop by to check on her and take her to meals. If you can access online menus, say for example, "there's turkey and mashed potatoes in the dining room at 5:00." The activity calendar is usually online, too, and you can point to movie night, or cookie baking, or whatever.  If you know her favorite tv shows, remind her on channel X at X:00 (ask staff to help with the remote if needed). These specific things can be very reassuring.

My mom had been uncharacteristically drinking wine at home, so when she moved I made sure she had a (twist-top!) bottle at hand and on really bad days I'd suggest a glass. Mostly now she just likes the IDEA of wine. She gets anxious when her supply of potato chips is low (relatable). Instacart has been great and I can always distract mom by asking her to check the fridge or cupboard. 

During the transition phase I asked staff for anti-anxiety meds for her when she was really upset, and after a few months she didn't need it. When she is exceptionally confused it sometimes turns out to be a bladder infection. The nurse usually picks this up but will do a urine test at the family's suggestion.

Kicking myself now, but for a long time I thought Mom was begging me to let her go home. Eventually I realized that she didn't know that she was supposed to be there. All that time she was upset because she thought she would be asked to leave. 

Finally--I panicked at every phone call from my mom until I talked to her one morning and she shouted at me "got to go now, there's BACON!"


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