Folks with dementia may Lie about Eating…
or Taking Medication
My Mom was a dietitian and worked in a hospital for many years. In our large family it was common knowledge that her house was the place to be if you wanted a family get-together, dinner always included!
Not only was she a great cook but she knew her vitamins and minerals and food groups or anything else that pertained to a well-balanced diet. But by middle stage Alzheimer’s Mom was fine with a Popsicle for breakfast and chocolate chip cookies for dinner.
Since Mom had cooked well-balanced meals for all of my childhood, it was easy for me to wrongly assume that Mom continued a strict healthy diet while she lived alone. The same belief carried over to my thoughts about Mom and her regimen of vitamins swallowed every morning.
Of course, it was all a figment of my imagination because she did neither; eat well balanced meals, nor take her vitamins.
==>> Helping Mom take medication was as difficult as seeing that she ate every day <<==
Her medication list included; Statins for high-cholesterol, Synthroid for a waning thyroid, plus high-blood pressure medication, and pain relief for an arthritic knee which she’d acquired later in life.
With Mom living alone, I mistakenly thought my only chore would be weekly check-ups and the occasional phone call reminder for her to eat well.
I learned quickly enough that it is not enough to ask someone with Alzheimer’s if they’ve had dinner or lunch or any other meal. Generally, they don’t remember whether they have eaten or not–and are too embarrassed to admit it so they will fib.
Mom was totally humiliated because she could not remember. So she would lie rather than say, “I don’t remember.”
Mom’s false memory created “elaborate pretend meals” of giant pizzas or 3 cheese lasagna that was baking in her oven. Truthfully, Mom could no longer remember how to boil an egg, but I didn’t realize that in the beginning.
Eventually, I knew it wasn’t true but still, she would insist on describing these gourmet meals she had created for herself. Truthfully, she did not want to be moved from her own home and she would tell any story she needed to remain at home. Though it took me awhile to catch on to her con, Mom never admitted that she had forgotten to eat, and more than that–she didn’t remember that she had forgotten to eat. It’s simple! If they have Alzheimer’s…If they live alone…They will forget to eat.
It was exactly the same with Mom’s medication. I feel foolish, now, to admit that I often accepted Mom’s word as truth. It is not NATURAL for an adult-child to assume their parent is lying. And, it isn’t a Lie to them. They are trying to prevent their adult-child from worrying and since they don’t remember– They make assumptions which too often are inaccurate.
You CAN NOT take their word for fact when it comes to eating or taking medications
Relying on a person with dementia to take his/her medication without assistance is dangerous, and know this–they will protest to the contrary. When Mom was still living alone before I realized how often she told me what I “wanted to hear” instead of “what was true,” we had a great pill-tray fiasco. I’d created what I thought was a perfect system for Mom, one to help her remember her meds because she lived alone. A great system, I thought.
I wanted reassurance that she was taking her pills properly despite her pronounced assertions that she was. I purchased one of those plastic pill boxes, 30 partitions for 30 days, I put the allotted pills for each day into each slot. I added a Calendar to her table-top, showed her how to check-off each day after she’d taken her pills. A fail safe idea, I thought. Two ways to remind her. The calendar and a tagged pill box.
I was feeling pretty good about our system when I pulled into her drive-way three days later.
The calendar had every single day of the entire month checked, not only checked but X’d with a large X in black marker. The 30 day pill container looked like a child’s toy bead-box. Some slots had pills, some did not, and some slots were filled so full with a variety of pills that they could not be snapped shut.
I opened my mouth, looked at Mom, and closed it again without a word. Her face was totally innocent. She didn’t have a clue what to do with the calendar or the pill box. “Did you take your pills?” I finally asked, with a sigh, knowing exactly what she’d say.
She was nodding before she answered, “Yep, I take them everyday. I always remember my pills.” She pushed the frayed and limp calendar toward me, “See, I marked every single day like you said! I swear,” she added with a touch of taunting.
Needless to say, that was Mom’s very last week to live in her own home alone. She moved in with me several days later.
Though I never recommend the person with dementia live alone, here are a few easy ways to make sure they take their medication no matter where they live