Sal died in December of 2014. His loving wife Milly, with increasing memory loss, began to forget the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. It made Milly very sad to not recall what had happened. She would call her daughters in tears that she could not remember the details. The memory was simply missing.
Daughter Gin wrote this letter for her mother as a way of quieting the confusion. Gin assures her mother that she need not worry if she can’t remember any of it. “It’s not your fault at all and does not reflect badly on you. You are more than what you can remember. There are always people you can ask for anything you can’t remember.”
Typically it is suggested that when the person with dementia continues to inquire about a deceased person, the best approach is to divert their attention away from the topic of death. Better to not tell the person their loved one is dead for fear of increasing the fear or confusion; possibly making a situation more upsetting. It would be better to tell a ‘fiblet.’
However, this is a beautiful example of a family understanding their loved one best. “If you have met one person with dementia, you have met ONE person with dementia.” The family’s solution was a departure from what the experts may have advised; but there is no disputing that this was a well-conceived idea which just happened to work!
The letter came from a place of great love. It is the story of caregiving; of how people will go to any length to provide a loved one with the best care and quality of life. This is about many families across our country doing the selfless work of caregiving; families being committed and innovative and never giving up. It is the crux of caregiving.
Gin’s solution may not work for everyone, nor will it continue to work for Milly without revisions. The important thing is to be able to assess the situation and deal with that given moment. Being willing to try options and change direction if need be is particularly crucial when involved in the care of those with dementia.
As the Family Caregiver Awareness month of November closes, North Shore Elder Services wants to again recognize all the caregivers we have been privileged to work with and support. Our mission of helping elders stay in their own homes as they age is often times made more possible because of the work of caregivers.
Here is the letter in its entirety;
Mom, when you can’t remember about how and when Dad died, just read this.
Sal died on December 27th 2014. He was with Adalie at the time. We do not know exactly what caused his passing but he was not well and had been that way for quite a while.
There was a beautiful funeral for him on December 31st here in St. Bruno. Tons of people came to pay their respects. There were friends of the family and lots of relatives. There were even coworkers of family and parents of grand children’s friends. So many people. You were there for everything. Lots of people said their condolences to you. You only remember Betty Walsh but there were many more.
There was a DVD made by John and his family that showed photos of Dad throughout the years, with family all around him. He had a beautiful casket. There was a musical trio brought in by Joe. There were speeches delivered by Joe, John, James, Laura, Julie and Victor. Maybe Stephanie too.
After the funeral we all went back to John’s house for a lovely afternoon and evening. We had lots of great food. We drank a lot of good booze. The whole evening we told stories about Dad and laughed about some of the zanier ones.
We all rang in the New Year by remembering Dad and celebrating his life.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember any of it. It’s not your fault at all and does not reflect badly on you. You are more than what you can remember. There are always people you can ask for anything you can’t remember.
We love you. Just ask us and don’t worry.