What do I say to my mom when her Alzheimer's causes her to forget the obvious?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has lots of memory problems that I suspect stem from Alzheimer's disease. After a recent visit, I called my parents to say I'd arrived home safely. By the end of the conversation my mom was saying, "So when are you coming to visit?" I hate to correct her, but I also hate to have her think I'm never visiting her. What's the best way to respond?

Expert Answer

Maria Caserta is a geriatric psychiatrist and the associate director of the Memory Center at the University of Chicago.

Avoid saying, "Don't you remember?" because even at the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease, your mom simply doesn't remember. Similarly, when she says something that's incorrect, don't say, "You're wrong!"

Instead, make your response positive, and more of a reminder than a correction. Say, "It was great to see you" and focus on the next visit. For example, you might say, "Mom, we just saw you and it was so nice, and I'll come to see you again in two weeks." If you can, give her a specific date when you'll next visit. Because she's liable to forget what you tell her unless she writes it down, you might also prompt, "Why don't you write that on the calendar, Mom?"

The more times your parent hears the same thing, especially from different sources (you, her partner, a calendar), the better she'll be able to remember it.