“Where is My Mother?” and Other Confusing Questions

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QUESTIONS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE

As our parents age, we might find ourselves struggling to answer and understand our loved ones with dementia. Dementia can change the way people express themselves, and often needs and desires are vocalized in coded and confusing ways. Surprisingly, one of the most common questions we get from dementia patients goes something like “have you seen my mother?” or “when can I go home?”

Those who are new to caring for a loved one with dementia might take this question at face value or dismiss it altogether. But in reality, questions like these can be metaphors for something else. Their meaning lies beyond the literal. For many of us, mothers are the people that care for us from the beginning. They represent that safe space where we could count on care and nurturing. If we had a need, they were likely to meet it for us.

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Strange Questions

People with dementia ask about “going home” often.  Long-term memory is triggered, and they long for the nostalgia and security they associate with home. They may already be at home, but because of the memory loss in dementia, nothing may feel familiar anymore, and the person may subconsciously connect “home” with the sense of familiarity and belonging. When asking questions like “where is my mother?” or “where is home?” our loved ones are likely trying to tell us that they feel anxious or insecure, that they’re longing for what “home” and “mother” made them feel.

When confronted with questions like these, there are a few things we can do to make our loved ones feel more safe and secure. 

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Quick Tips

First, we should let them know that we hear them and provide reassurance that they’re safe. Don’t lie and say something like “Mother is at the grocery store,” but engage with them to parse out their feelings. When we acknowledge that we heard their questions, our loved ones may start letting go of the grief or anger. Why? Because acknowledging that we heard them can offer a sense of comfort.

Next, we can ask them what home is like. Are there favorite smells from the kitchen? Radio shows listened to? Reminisce and try to talk about those fond aspects of their childhood memories: playing cards or board games, holidays, playing the family piano, etc. Additionally, looking at old family and home photos together may be helpful.

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Emotional MIRRORING

We can match our loved one’s emotions by echoing their feelings. Saying something like “you must wish you could be at home right now” can help them feel that you understand the lost feeling they have, and that can comfort them.

The conversation might start something like this:

    • Senior: Have you seen my mother?
    • Respond: Oh, you are looking for your mother.
    • Senior: Have you seen her?
    • Respond: Tell me more about your mother. (You want to try to keep the conversation going, but never lie or say things like Yes, I’ve seen her, as that can make the situation worse.)

More Recommended Products for Parents with Memory Loss

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Older Adults Have Unique Memory Care Needs

So, when a person with dementia is asking, “Have you seen my mother?” what they are really asking might be: “Will you meet my immediate needs?” Being aware of this phenomenon can save us time and save our loved ones any distress. And always, we can connect them with an understanding professional like those at Wellqor, who are specifically trained to read these cues, soothe their needs, and help us understand our loved ones.

Loved Ones WITH memory Loss CAN REMAIN INDEPENDENT

Dementia and memory loss can be challenging to cope with. Still, we offer many products and solutions to assist you and your parent to keep them safe so they can maintain their independence at home as long as possible.

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