Question: I am caring for my 90-year-old mother. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2007, the year she came to live with us. We have seen a steady, relentless decline since that time. My current problem is she wants to see her mother. She believes that her mother is wondering where she is and my mother doesn't know how to find her. I tried initially to explain that her mother passed on over 40 years ago and that she is watching over her from heaven. That just upset her. I have just tried suggesting she write her a letter and gave her an address to send the letter to; however, she doesn't ever write anything down. She just sits there with the address and a writing pad and pen for several hours, then just walks away. These thoughts are creating a lot of anxiety in her and I just don't know what to do to help her.
Dr. Amy: I think you may find it helpful, next time this occurs, to shift the focus. Rather than address your mother's desire to find her mother, try helping her to remember the special times she had with her. You might ask her about a certain event or about her mother's life. David Troxel explains this approach in detail in his excellent book, "A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care." At the same time, you may also want to speak with the doctor to explore whether your mother's anxiety could be reduced through medication.
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