My mom has Alzheimer’s and continually says things like, “I wish I were dead.” What should I do?

There are a few possibilities for this. Your mother could be dealing with depression, or it could be her way of expressing her frustration about the disease.

Regardless, she needs to be observed and monitored. A physician can examine her and prescribe an antidepressant if he thinks it’s warranted. So do call a doctor if you think it’s depression-related.

Your mother needs assurance about her changing condition. Inquire regularly about how she is feeling and discuss things — not just Alzheimer’s. It is OK to talk until she gets in touch with feelings she might have such as frustration, anger or fear.

This is where validation comes into play yet again: It is essential. Say things such as, “I know you’re not feeling yourself lately, but you are so wonderful, Mom. That hasn’t changed.” Or maybe, “Mom, please tell me what you are feeling that makes you want to die.”

Odds are she will talk about how inadequate she feels. Constantly reassure her, tell her she is loved and needed. Then go another step and give her opportunities to help so she feels she has something to contribute to the family.

All human beings need to feel they are contributing. When Alzheimer’s or dementia hits, however, it’s easy for a person to feel he or she has nothing to offer. That’s where loved ones must see to it that this individual is given an environment where he or she can feel needed and useful. Provide opportunities to help with chores around the house. No matter what the activity is, modify it as needed in order to make the person feel useful.

It makes no sense to start a chore set that is too difficult, or start appropriately and then not simplify as needed. For example, if laundry were the focal point, your loved one might be able to start with gathering, loading/unloading and folding the clothes. Also measuring soap, setting the dials, drying and folding could be included. But then, as the disease progresses, tasks might need to be peeled off or scaled back. This still allows your loved one can keep his or her “laundry” duties and identity.

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