My dad is 94 and is often confused about many things. My brother and I take care of him (and my developmentally disabled brother) at their home daily with meals, shopping, appointments, etc. My mother passed in Sept. 2020, during Covid in the hospital, from congestive heart failure. It was a difficult time because we couldn’t see her once she was admitted to the hospital bc of Covid so it was a bit of a shock when she died. Every once in a while, my dad dwells on her death, thinking that he could have done something to save her. He thinks that he could have “woken her up” by shaking her and “stimulating her nervous system” but he didn’t try and now feels awful. He was not there when she passed and she had been gone for over an hour by the time we got there. It’s heartbreaking and I try to gently explain that the doctors did everything they could but she was too sick, etc. what else can I do or say? He’s home by himself most of the day and doesn’t really want to go do anything and honestly, his mobility is very poor so we don’t go much.
Can your father be taken out with a wheelchair? Even if it's just outside for a while or for a drive.
I was an in-home caregiver for 25 years. I've had lots of clients like your father. Who lived alone with their husband or wife. Then one of them passes away. Its devastating and if they're home alone all the time, that's bad.
Look into getting him a hired companion. I remember an old WWII veteran I worked for. He was married for over 50 years when his wife passed. He was pretty independent and could still do for himself, but he never left the house. His whole life had become obsessing over his wife's death and cable news.
I started bringing my son around when he was little. He was talking with my client about how his Cub Scout troup was marching in the memorial day parade and invited him. He came with us. That was the first time he'd left the house since his wife's funeral. After that he'd tell him to go ask his ma (me) if she wants to go for ice cream. Then we'd go. We would go to the park too.
He didn't obssess about his wife or cable news quite as much.
Maybe a companion will be what your father needs now.
I think dad is grieving, but also ruminating. Not good for him. This is something that often happens when folks have dementia; they tend to go over and over a memory (at least with my MIL, always negative ones). It's painful to watch and I imagine painful for them.
There are antidepressant medications that can specifically help with ruminating; you might consider a consult with a geriatric psychiatrist.
It might help. Yours, Margaret
Frankly, when my grandfather passed away, we as a family did not imagine my grandmother would be with us more than 6 months to a year after. But she will be 97 this year.
As I said, grief is different for everyone. Sometimes when we are able to process our own grief more quickly or in a way that we might consider more healthy than someone else, it is difficult for us to really wrap our heads around why someone else can't do it too.
My grandmother was not with my grandfather when he passed away. He had been in the hospital for over a month. She was literally at the hospital for the entire month. When he had an actual room - she slept on the couch. When he was in ICU, one of us slept in the waiting room in a chair so that she wouldn't be alone because she refused to leave. She would shower when he got a room.
We knew - every single one of us - what was happening - in our hearts. He was waiting for her to leave. And she was staying so that he wouldn't go.
When we finally got her to leave - when the doctors begged her to go home just for a few hours - that was when he was able to find his peace.
She still to this day maintains if she had stayed he wouldn't have passed away.
And to this day - she still grieves him. She didn't pass away when he did. But she stopped living. And it breaks my heart. My daughters, who are adults now, I had to stop allowing them to spend the night with her - because unbeknownst to me - when I thought she was taking them out for fun great grandmother/great granddaughter time - she was actually taking them and sitting at his graveside all day - crying. I didn't know what else to do - they still spent time with her - but I just couldn't allow them to do that with her any longer.
She spent over 5 years spending as many days as she could at his graveside for as many hours as she could. Then she finally stopped doing that except for special days - anniversaries, birthdays, holidays. Then she got to the point where it was just too hard on her body to do that. Now she will get my mom to take her out to put flowers on his grave for special days.
I don't mean to make it sound like your situation is hopeless. I just wanted to point out that there is a possibility that he may not be ready yet to stop grieving. And to be fair, he may never be ready. Especially if he has dementia or Alzheimer's - he may relive some or all of it, or forget some or all of it on a regular basis. We can't put parameters on grief no matter how much we want someone to be able to move on.
There isn't anything inherently wrong with wanting him to move on and heal. You have the absolute best intentions. Believe me, I understand. You want him to feel better and be able to move forward. But he may just not be at that point yet.
Depression is a possibility. My grandmother certainly is depressed. There is no question. But her depression is wrapped around her grief. And all we can do at this point is love her through it.
When my dad died, my mom felt responsible because she didn’t try to talk him out of his heart surgery. He actually came through his surgery fine. He had a stroke shortly afterwards while recovering in the hospital.
It broke my heart that she blamed herself. I explained to her that she did the right thing by supporting my father’s decision to have the surgery and if he hadn’t had surgery he would have surely died.
I think it is common for a spouse to second guess or even feel responsible in some way. You have responded to his concerns in a loving manner.
Your profile says that he has Alzheimer’s disease. How far along is he? Do you think that he is capable of processing this situation accurately?
Dwelling once in a while about the death of his sweetheart especially at his age is all he's got until that last huge meaningful impression is replaced by something else, which isn't likely going to happen unless you plan to take him on a weekend away or better.
So as much as you need to be cut a lot of slack, I know how wearing hearing a broken record is, on top of wanting to fix things (like he wishes he could've) but can't fix, is very frustrating, you're going to have to, I'm sorry, extend yourself even further with answers like...
Dad, you terrific hero you, mom's soul needed to let go of a sick body. She would've lived with machines and in pain if (G-d, Nature?) did make the best decision for her. I believe she's hears us, she's still connected, wouldn't you be, and she doesn't want you to suffer. She may be hurting not seeing us smile and talk about happy fun things like…hey, btw, remember that time at the neighbor's backyard barbecue and Fred fell into the pool with his sandwich. Or that silly time at the lakeside picnic. Or uncle Bill's wedding. We'll see her soon enough and I don't want her to tell us that she was disappointed and sad that she made us miserable.
When he says, "I could have shaken her awake"… You say, I love you dad. I love the way you loved mom, (kiss him on the head and say), but dad you are not a defibrillator. She's become a young woman again waiting for the right time to see us again.
Besides, as a matter of fact, I heard they treated her extra special because the nurses liked her best, and they were not supposed to tell us that or they'd get into trouble. So now you know a secret.
If you don't go much because his mobility is poor, speak to a social worker, put him in a wheel chair, get him to see the sunshine. Bring him to a park, a mall. Find a massive out door parking lot, go to the most further end, hopefully where there are trees, bring a picnic. Never give up, never give up, don't become like him. Tell him you need his help.
If he is not already on medication for depression/mood, I would talk to his doctor about this as your next action. He obviously isn't able to pull himself out of this tailspin, so his PoA needs to help him. Talking to him about it and allowing him to drell on it is not working.
You can also try redirecting the conversations he starts on this topic: move past his negative, guilty comments and help him count the blessings he gave to your Mom as a good and faithful husband. Then change the subject to something unrelated and positive/neutral/uplifting -- find funny animal videos on YouTube or Instagram to move his mind off the subject. Come up with activities for him: have a tub of nuts and bolts that "need" to be paired (like, a lot so that it keeps him busy for 30 minutes or more). Use large ones so it is easier for him to manipulate. I wish you all the best as you work to help him!