Living Columns & Blogs

Carolyn Hax: Are siblings wrong to not visit their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother?

DEAR CAROLYN: My mom has Alzheimer’s and lives in an assisted living facility. I have siblings that never go to see her, and they claim she doesn’t recognize them or wouldn’t remember that they were there. Are those legitimate or logical excuses?

– G.

DEAR G.: If the whole point of visiting were for your mom to know her children cared for her, then maybe they’d have a point. And only maybe, because they can’t know what she thinks or whether some familiarity cuts through the Alzheimer’s fog.

But recognition is hardly the whole point of visiting. For one thing, visitors are the ones who hold the facility staff accountable.

By not showing up, your siblings might as well say they don’t care how clean or safe or well-fed their mother is.

And, whether she recognizes them or not, visitors can bring pleasure to your mother; those who are familiar with her state of mind can speak to this. If she brightens with company, then that voids your siblings’ rationale for staying away.

These siblings are also in the worst possible frame of mind to see that visiting Mom benefits them. End-of-life care (or indifference) is a last word, no do-overs. Unless Mom was abusive to them, a working conscience won’t let them pretend this was the best they could do.

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