Found this touching series by photographer Phillip Toledano chronicling his father’s last two years with dementia.
He says this:
“My Mum died suddenly on September 4th, 2006. After she died, I realized how much she’d been shielding me from my father’s mental state. He didn’t have alzheimers, but he had no short-term memory, and was often lost. I took him to the funeral, but when we got home, he’d keep asking me every 15 minutes where my mother was. I had to explain over and over again, that she had died. This was shocking news to him. Why had no-one told him? Why hadn’t I taken him to the funeral? Why hadn’t he visited her in the hospital? He had no memory of these events.
After a while, I realized I couldn’t keep telling him that his wife had died. He didn’t remember, and it was killing both of us, to constantly re-live her death. I decided to tell him she’d gone to Paris, to take care of her brother, who was sick.”
This echoes both my own personal experience and a recent episode of This American Life in which a woman and her husband use their experience with improv acting to interact with her mother, who has dementia (which doesn’t necessarily make it an any less painful experience).