My mother accuses me of not visiting. What can I do to help her remember?

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother, who is 88, has dementia and lives in a board and care home, accuses me every five minutes when I visit of not having visited her in a long time. I visit her several times a week but she cannot remember. It makes me sad that she feels abandoned even though I do visit her. What can I do?

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear Deb:

I'm sorry you're facing a difficult challenge with your mom.

There really isn't much you can do to "make" or help your mom remember that she just saw you yesterday or for that matter, 20-minutes ago. That forgetfulness is the crux of her dementia.

It makes no sense debating with her over the "Yes, I did." "No you didn't." problem, but you might consider these two suggestions:

  1. Create a "Weekly Calendar" for her and enter your visitation schedule on the calendar. If you can, ask the staff to stop by your mom's room daily and review your previous and next visit schedule with her. When you do visit, sit with her before you leave and check off the current day's visit, and show her or circle the date of your next upcoming visit.

This may or may not prove to be of any value, but for a few weeks, it's worth a try.

  1. After you have visited your mom, upon returning home, place a phone call and tell her how wonderful it was to see her TODAY, and remind her that you'll see her in 2-3-5 days or whenever you've planned your next visit.

Be sure to call her the day you intend to visit to remind her that today is another visiting day, and if she's capable, have her look at her calendar and walk her through it. "Mom, today is Tuesday, March 20, see where it says that? Okay, I'll be there to see you."

If that approach is helping at the time of each phone call you can also "walk her" through the most recent visit - "I saw you on Sunday, 2-days ago, and I'll see you tomorrow."

There's certainly a chance that none of this will work. If that's the case, it's up to you to accept the fact that mom will say what she does, and your job is not to internalize it or become defensive.

Perhaps your best response is, "I know mom, I'll try to visit more often." And just leave it at that, with you knowing the reality and your mom somewhat satisfied that she made "her point."

Good luck.

Community Answers

Rmy953 answered...

My mother gets confused about whether we've visited her or not. We just put up a dry erase board in the NH and we write on it every time we are there. We also write little notes to her and she seems to love it!

John & holly schmid answered...

To add to the idea of writing visits on the calendar, have your mom sign or initial the entry, or even write it herself. Then she can see (and maybe remember) her input in the process. We did this when our friend, Bernice, was still alive, and it worked very well.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Take a picture of you and her together on each visit and write a caption of what your visit that day included, put on a bulletin / magnetic board near her.

Nana4nana answered...

I also got a dry erase board. I write the date and day, and a little note - I love you. I also got her a large desk top calendar and a circle the current day cross off the prior day. It took a few days but she finally got into a routine. Alzheimer's and dementia patients appreciate routine. I got the staff involved also so they know to say something to mom such as I" see your daughter was here to visit you today". This has helped tremendously

Daisychain answered...

It hurts our feelings or makes us feel guilty because we love them. My mother will act as though I have not been there in months when it is almost every day. I have to get over my feelings and focus on hers. I say " I know it feels like its been so long, it's so good to get together" and just go about our visit. After all, it is me the rational one that is worried that she thinks I don't care about her. She has a disease that renders her irrational and it just makes her feel more confused if I point out to her that I just saw her yesterday.