Do I tell mil with dementia bad news?

Hi all. Mil (93) is in a care home, physically fit but her brain was wiped by a major stroke a year ago. She was regaining mental function but now her existing dementia has overtaken her recovery and she is deteriorating. She has little or no memory of her life and family. Doesn’t take in new info, can’t remember 2 hours ago let alone a week. She recognises relatives who visit regularly but forgot about her younger son when he didn’t visit for 4 weeks. The blessing is that she is well cared for and seems vacant, content but bored - mainly because she can’t remember any of the activities she’s been doing. We will soon need advice on how to deal with giving her bad news. Her younger brother (87) has Parkinson’s and erratic BP, her younger sister (92) is increasingly frail and forgetful having regular falls. Either could go at any time. We visit weekly and get them to talk on my mobile phone to her so she does still know them but if we don’t offer she doesn’t ask.
Taking her to a funeral 35 miles away will not be possible what with constant WC trips, no social graces and refusal to wear hearing aids.
So when the time comes do we tell her or not? Anecdotes and advice please.

1 Like

Hello Judy
Difficult one.
I personally wouldn’t tell because she will forget anyway by the sound of it.
I’m saying this because my lovely husband had vascular dementia and other health issues. He used to ask me about his parents, especially his Mother ( both had died many years ago) and I used to what I called kind lie. Telling him they were ok, not going out because of the weather…all sorts. I couldn’t tell him they had died many years ago and cause him to greive, even though it possibly wouldn’t stay with him for long. It’s going to upset and stress you if you do tell her. To maybe have to repeat it.
But that’s my take on it, others may feel differently.
I certainly feel for you

Judy. I agree with Pet66. Is there any point in telling her? If she forgets thats fine, but if she then asks about the person and gets upset if she realises she forgot or even just upset at receiving the news a second time it probably wont do her any good. It would certainly give you more grief.

I know towards the end we didnt tell my Dad any bad news as he would get upset repeatedly when he was reminded or, as I mentioned, would ask about the person and have to be told a second or third time of their demise.

Judy, I think I’d only tell her if she asked why she hadn’t spoken to them on the phone in awhile (which she is unlikely to do). If she did ask, I think I’d only tell her once rather than each time she forgot.

My uncle died a few months before my mum. They were very close, but the dementia had ripped away mum’s memory to the point where - if we’d told her - she would not retain the memory but might retain a vestige, making her ask about him, only go through the grief all over again.

By this time, mum was questioning whether Dad or my sister were still alive - they died some years ago - and we realised it was not worth giving her the bad news on every visit. It helped no one.

So we did not tell her any bad news.

I think it’s best not to say anything, little white lies like “he’s fine but not getting out and about now” is far kinder.


I think it would be cruel to tell her actually. When my late Mum was in a care home with dementia her baby brother (of 8 siblings) in his 80s died and we decided not to tell her because it would have upset her so much.

She had such lovely memories of all her family growing up together and we talked about it all the time so we felt it would be cruel.


I would agree with most of the replies here as to not telling her. It would be upsetting for her and then she would probably forget and you would have to keep repeating the same information and keep upsetting her over and over again. There would be no point in that. She may well forget the person anyway what with the phonecalls ceasing. Wishing you all the best.


Thanks everyone. That’s what we thought. We will have a difficult time convincing her younger brother (72). He visits every week introducing himself as he walks in and has no idea how disconnected she really is. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.


I remember in the past a forum member mentioning a book called “Contented Dementia” (or similar). Might be worth a read, then give it to your brother to look at?!

I think it was Susieq.