Should I explain to My Broter in Law who has alzhiemers that his wife has cancer and is dying?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 19, 2016
Richunt asked...

My sister is dying from cancer and is in the late stages. Her husband has alziemers, often repeats himself and often forgets where he has been. WE have been telling him that my sister fell and fractured her pelvis bone and will be in the nursing home for two more weeks. SHe did fracture her bone but we do not tell her husband that she is also dying from cancer. Do we let him know that his wife is dying or keep up the ruse and let him think that she will be home in two or three weeks or tell him the truth?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

This is a tough question! Sorry that you are in such a tough spot.

I have had experience telling many of my demented patients bad news regarding either themselves or loved ones. For instance, I have told many people that their children have died, or that they have cancer, and it is hard. Most of the time, they take the news suprisingly well. Just think, wouldn't you want to know if you were in his shoes?

I think you need to tell him. Your brother in law is still a person, dementia or not, and he deserves to know the truth. He should be allowed to visit her to say goodbye, as it is his wife. I know that it will be hard (for him and you).

To tell him, I would do it when you are alone together, in a quiet place, without distractions. Allow him to process the information. Answer all his questions simply and clearly.

I wish you the best of luck!