Don’t let Someone with Alzheimer’s dementia Con You
One of the sadder consequence of the failing memory of those with Alzheimer’s Dementia is that by middle-stage they are so deep in denial about their own situation that they can easily convince others that all is fine with their health.
They learn to compensate for a failing memory long before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia has been made. My mom was totally deaf by the time I made an appointment to have her hearing checked. But she had reassured me for years that her current hearing aid worked just fine. She rarely asked me to repeat a sentence and could carry on an active conversation fairly well.
Over a long period of time she had learned to lip-read and became so good at it that no one would guess she couldn’t hear at all. She was still driving into Middle Stage Alzheimer’s, and clearly a danger to others as well as herself. I only saw her twice a week and generally accepted what she said as truth.
- When asked if she had trouble driving, Mom would say, “Oh no. I’m a great driver.” We later learned that an employee of Safeway had taken her home numerous times because she couldn’t find her car in the parking lot when she finished shopping.
- When we asked if she was all right living alone, Mom assured us that she was fine and loved living alone. Later we learned that she was heating the house through the winter with the oven turned on high and door propped open, that she was sponge bathing because she no longer knew how to adjust the water for a shower, that she ate cookies 3 times a day because she didn’t remember how to cook or operate her microwave.
And the list goes on and on–.
Once, Mom called me to complain that she hadn’t seen my brother in more than a year. I was furious until I spoke to my brother, and he explained that she had told him the same thing about me. We had both been to her home twice during the previous week, but on different days.
Mom was not lying; not when she said she hadn’t seen my brother, nor when she said she hadn’t seen me. We had both been to her home, but she didn’t remember our visits. If I reminded Mom, or urged her by saying, “Mom, remember, he brought you flowers.”
She would promptly correct herself and say, “Oh yea, I do remember that.”
But in reality, she didn’t remember it at all. Once I was aware of this little ploy, I was shocked how often Mom agreed with me and covered by saying, “Oh yea, I remember that.”
Because the Alzheimer’s sufferer senses they should remember–and knows we expect them to remember–they pretend to remember.
This can be very detrimental to the caregiver if they rely on the patient to answer questions about eating, or bathing, or taking medication. It must be assumed that middle stage Alzheimer’s and Dementia sufferers may not tell the truth, simply because they aren’t sure what the truth is. They can’t remember if they’ve had lunch, or taken their pills, or had a shower this day. They may tell you they remember because they want to please you–but they don’t remember. By the time Mom was in middle stage Alzheimer’s her short term memory lasted only seconds. She could tell you something, turn around and repeat it all again as though telling it for the first time.
It’s also important that family members don’t believe every accusation the Alzheimer’s or Dementia sufferer tells them. It’s wise to investigate, to be sure, but the patient often resents the caregiver for denying them access to their car, or pills, or a power mower, or hand guns. The patient simply doesn’t know what is and what is NOT best for him/her by this stage. And sometimes they resort to wild accusations that simply aren’t true. By middle stage Alzheimer’s hallucinations can be a common occurrence.
Remember– no one sees the haunting and disturbing behavior day in and day out like the caregiver. They hear repeated and constant stumbling over every word and suffer an oppressive amount of repetition in a single day’s time. They must repeat each instruction over and over, day after day, to a patient who never remembers.
And yet, the person with Alzheimer’s Dementia is captive to their disease. There is nothing vindictive about their behavior. They can’t help what they say or even how they behave. It must always be remembered, their mind is confused and there is no understanding of our explanations.
I’ve said this many times before–
The person with Alzheimer’s Dementia does not need the truth, only comfort and love.