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IPFS News Link • How To

How to Talk to a Loved One With Alzheimer's or Other Types of Dementia

•, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

I'll never forget the last real conversation I had with my late mother-in-law, Grace. She'd had Alzheimer's disease for a number of years, and making a call on her smartphone was getting tough for her. So I was surprised to see her name pop up on my screen, calling me on a random Thursday night in the fall of 2021.

"Are you watching 60 Minutes?" she asked.

I paused. I hadn't watched the news-magazine show in decades, but I knew it aired on Sunday nights, not Thursdays. I also knew how confused Alzheimer's had made my mother-in-law. 

Before her illness, she'd always kept up with the news and had strong opinions on politics -- even campaigning for John F. Kennedy when he ran for president in the 1960s. She kept her mind active well into her 80s by doing the daily crossword puzzle in her favorite newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, and she loved to discuss new books with me. 

But Alzheimer's had robbed her of her focus, and often her words. I knew how hard that was for her, how she became frustrated to the point of tears when she couldn't make herself understood. If she thought she was watching 60 Minutes on a night it wasn't on, I was not about to disagree with her.

"Yes, I'm watching 60 Minutes!" I said instantly.

It was the right answer. In a happy, satisfied voice, she said, "They're a nice couple, aren't they?"