Dear Family Resource,
My 92-year-old mother lives in the Alzheimer’s unit of a long-term care facility. I visit her about twice a week and she still knows who I am, but every time I arrive she tells me that she hasn’t seen me for years. She also says things like, “I have no purpose in life anymore,” and “There’s nothing I can do; I might as well die.” The staff tells me this is normal, but I can see that she’s just sitting all day long and not participating in any activities. How should I respond when she says such things and would it help if she joined in some of the group activities?
Dear Sad Daughter:
I am sure it is frustrating for you and for your mother that she has no short-term memory. The good news is that she remembers YOU! You could have some fun with the situation and make each visit special. Bring her something little, like a flower or picture, and exclaim how happy you are to see her and tell her how terrific she looks. This will make it fun for the two of you instead of making her feel bad that she doesn’t remember your previous visits.
Your mother probably has moments of clarity and recognizes her decline. She may suffer from mild depression. Speak to her primary physician for input and don’t get into a discussion when she talks about dying. Just reassure her that she’s important to you. Talk to the activities director at her home to ensure she is invited and encouraged to take part in activities. Make an activity box for your mother to include things she likes and things she can look at, listen to, touch, and possibly manipulate or engage in meaningfully.
Hiring a companion from a home care agency such as Family Resource Home Care once or twice a week to do 1-on-1 activities with her or help her participate in facility activities can be a huge benefit. Remember, even if she doesn’t say it, you are her sunshine!