Q & A: Should You Correct Someone with Alzheimer’s?

should you correct someone with alzheimer’s

– Question –

My mom has Alzheimer’s. I know her mind isn’t what it used to be, but she says things that are obviously wrong or not true. I’ve heard that I should go along with her and I’ve also heard that I should explain why she’s wrong – I’m not sure which way is best.

She just told me that my uncle came to see her the day before, but I know that didn’t happen because he lives in another state. Another time she told me she never goes to a certain restaurant (her favorite place), but we had just eaten there a week ago!

Isn’t it better to correct her and tell her what’s right? I’m afraid her Alzheimer’s will get worse if I just go along with whatever she says. Sometimes I think she’s lying on purpose and I don’t want her to get away with that either.

What should I do?




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– Answer –

Your mom isn’t purposely lying to you. When someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia, the disease causes their brain to malfunction. It might not happen all the time, but when it does, it’s definitely the disease talking.

 

In her world, she’s telling the truth
Older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia truly do believe what they’re saying because it’s what their brains are telling them. In your mom’s case, what she tells you is her reality. It just doesn’t match yours.

 

Focus on kindness
The best solution is to focus on being kind rather than being right. Whenever possible, go along with your mom’s new reality. If that means agreeing when she tells a crazy, made-up story or says something sounding like a lie, then so be it.

Agreeing with her won’t do any harm and will definitely make her feel more calm and happy. Using logic and reason to explain why she’s wrong is likely to cause anger, confusion, agitation, defensiveness, or acting out with difficult behavior.

 

Agreeing won’t make the Alzheimer’s worse
Going along with your mom’s new reality won’t make her Alzheimer’s worse or progress faster. No amount of explanation, logic, or reasoning can stop or delay the disease.

Each person’s disease will advance at a different rate. But because Alzheimer’s and dementia are progressive diseases without cures, everyone eventually gets worse.

 

Bottom line
Making the most of the time you have together is the most helpful approach. Focus on positive emotions rather than exact words and don’t worry about whether the facts are correct or not. If you look at the big picture, those things aren’t that important.

 

Recommended for you:
The ONE Alzheimer’s Care Tip That Will Change Your Life
Communication Tips Help You Connect with Seniors with Alzheimer’s
3 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Bayshore Memory Care


7 Comments

  • Reply April 23, 2018

    Nada Todd

    How do I handle my sister when she says “Tell me the truth, is our mother dead?” If I say yes she gets upset that she didn’t know that. She does the same about her husband, who has also passed. Do I lie?

    • Reply April 23, 2018

      DailyCaring

      This is certainly a tough situation. I think it really depends on your sister’s capacity for understanding, processing, and retaining information. If her dementia is progressed far enough along that she can only retain information for a few hours or a few days, then it might be better to tell a white lie to avoid making her relive the pain of loss again and again. But if you feel that telling her the truth will help her, that may be the better approach. It really depends and sometimes, may even take some experimenting to see what works best. We’ve got an article about using therapeutic fibbing with someone who has dementia that would be helpful — http://dailycaring.com/why-experts-recommend-lying-to-someone-with-dementia/

  • Reply April 9, 2018

    Megan

    I agree with above as long as the are harmless. She tell me every day my grandfather is mean to her and takes her money and car keys. He takes her car keys cause she loses them and she does not need to leave house alone. He does not take her money she hides it and then forgets were she puts it and swear she looked there and it was there before even though my grandfather has not moved since she lost it. When she ask if my aunt left my house yet even though she never came to see me I go with it. If she tells me she talked to my early even though she has not and I know this I just agree

    • Reply April 9, 2018

      DailyCaring

      It’s wonderful that you’re able to respond kindly because you know that it’s the dementia causing her to say these things.

  • Reply January 30, 2018

    Sherry

    I agree with going along with the harmless examples above. However, how do I handle the accusations against me and my mother’s aides? We have been accused of tying her up, beating her, holding her down and scratching her, dragging her down the hall by her feet, not feeding her…you get the drift. I’m just thankful that we are each others witness that none of these have happened.

  • Reply January 30, 2018

    Sherry Mace

    I agree with going along with the harmless examples above. However, how do I handle my mother’s accusations against me and her aides? We have been accused of tying her up, beating her, holding her down and scratching her face, dragging he’d down the hall by her feet…you get the drift. I’m just thankful that we are each others witness that these things never hapened.

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