Caregiver · Family · Grief

Dad’s ghost / March 24, 2006

My mother often forgets that my father died. She doesn’t claim to see or hear him, but she sometimes wonders when he’ll be getting home. My sister says that she often refers to me as “Dad.” I mentioned this to our case manager and wondered how I should respond–should I correct her or play along? She said that there are ways of responding that reassure rather than correct or “humor” my mother. She also said that maybe this delusion wasn’t so bad, if it gave my mother some reassurance to think of my father taking care of certain things. And it’s true–my mother usually mentions him in that context. Tonight the pharmacy called to tell us that her prescription was ready. My mother answered the telephone, and apparently the pharmacist went into some (unnecessary) detail about substituting one size dosage for another. By the time my mother got off the line and found me, she’d lost a good deal of the message. I kept telling her not to worry, that I’d go pick it up in the morning, no sense fretting. She went to bed, but was up again in about an hour, still ruminating. Daddy dropped off the medicines, she repeated, and the first couple of times I said, No, Mom, I dropped off the prescriptions, but that wasn’t the point, and all it did was further complicate her distress.

I’m slowly learning how to pare down the message when we talk together. I’m someone who just loves details, so being succinct is a struggle. Sometimes I have to repeat myself, dropping a few adjectives with each repetition, until I have a clean, simple sentence. In the case of the prescriptions, she couldn’t remember some number the pharmacist said. I knew it must have been the pill strength and tried to convince her of this, but she said *No* that wasn’t what she meant. After about ten back-and-forths I finally said: Whatever he said, I’ll take care of it. And that seemed to rest her mind.

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