Contradict or go with it?(18 Posts)
My mum has Alzheimers. She's still able to live at home enjoy a chat and the telly etc but but her memory has pretty much gone. She is quite a proud person. She has 3 daughters and often gets me muddled up with my oldest sister. She thinks of me as being much younger than I am. Anyhow when I saw her yesterday she kept on asking me about my job as a teacher. Is it half term, what subjects do I teach, which school etc.I'm not a teacher and never have been neither is my sister (although she has worked in education). Several times yesterday I told her that I'm not a teacher partly, if I'm honest because I'm miffed that she has never really appreciated what I've acheived in my profession, and partly in a vain hope to live in reality with my mum for just a bit longer. However I wonder if it is pointless/ a bit cruel to keep 'correcting'her over these sorts of things. Should I just go along with it say yes it's half term, I teach English in Blah Academy etc? I'm just not sure if we are quite there yet and when the next person comes along and says 'but apricot isn't a teacher/ hasn't three children/doesn't live in xtown' will it be harder for mum to know which way is up? When did/will you start going along with stuff?
I don't have any real life experience of this but I can see how difficult this must be for you and it struck a chord with me. I have a family member who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's so this has not really happened yet but I have been wondering how we should respond when/if it does.
I came across this from an Alzheimer's care giver who recommends not to correct the mistaken beliefs or statements.
His reasoning is that correcting them only results in feelings of frustration and stress - for the person with Alzheimer's AND for the carer. The person with Alzheimer's has a different reality and whatever you do, no matter how many times you correct them, you won't be able to convince them they are wrong and that your reality is the true reality.
The author spent years repeatedly contradicting his mother before coming to the realisation that she was not able to enter his world and they would both be happier if he entered hers. I guess the point at which people make this decision is going to be different for everybody and there's no getting away from the fact that it is a difficult one to make. But if both parties are going to be happier afterwards then perhaps it is a decision better made sooner rather than later.
I'm sorry you are having to deal with this and it must be very distressing. Hopefully someone with real experience and who knows a lot more about it than me will be along soon.
My mum had dementia. The first time she asked who I was I was devastated. I found it very hard to go along with her at first. The last 3years of her life we went along with whatever she said. My mum constantly asked for her mother. To correct her at the stage she was at, just confused her more plus we couldn't tell her , her mother was long dead.
In the end my mum thought we were her siblings( she was 1 of 10).
We were told by the Care home NOT to correct her or disagree with what she said.
Good luck, it's really the most horrible illness ever.
I always go along with things - there's nothing gained for either of us by arguing/me being right, and mum wouldn't remember anyway, but could hang onto the negative feelings. These days she doesn't know who I am, or that I'm her daughter, so there's no point in trying to remind her of that - it breaks my heart to call her by her first name, but she's much more settled. Equally, she calls my dad 'Dad' and he goes with that
My experience is that correcting increases confusion and distress.
Even things that you might think would be distressing to have confirmed, ' yes, Mum, I'm trying to steal your car', seem to be better received than assuring her that stealing from her is the last thing I'd do. The subject then gets dropped.
But maybe it depends on the degree to which they are out of touch with reality.
Sometimes it sort of feels respectful to accept her version of reality.
It's painful, experiencing that people we love are so far altered that we are seen very oddly, or scarecly seen at all.But it's not about me. Its not some uninhibited release of how she actually sees me. It's just an altered reality, just a cruel brain disease.
I understood that you shouldn’t correct or encourage sufferers to recall memories because it’s not that the memories are buried or confused simply that they do not exist anymore.
Its like they have never been.So it can cause frustration and/or upset.
Such a cruel disease.
Instead of correcting her can you try and steer the conversation slightly using the subject she has brought up as a starting point - so if she asks you if it's half term you could ask her about what school holidays were like when she was a child?
Being with people with dementia is so hard isn't it? You can correct her twenty times and she maybe still won't remember next time.
IMHO, it becomes much more about living moment by moment. What is going to work in this moment, here, right now?
There's no right or wrong way I think, but if you can help ease her distress and confusion, or make her smile, in one moment - then I would see that as a success.
for you and your family
I just went with the flow. My Dad, who I knew and loved so much, was gone. So we made life as comfortable and secure as possible for the person he'd become.
My mum used to correct my Grandmother. I didn't; I found it pointless and upsetting for her. Mum has stopped now and her times with her mum are much happier.
I wouldn't use negative language by saying no I don't do that or remember what I do or try and reinforce the misconception but I'd answer honestly to a point.
Is it half term - yes it is for the schools but I'm not on holiday at the moment.
What do you teach - I mostly do computer work just now (generally blurb about how your day is)
There are ways of correcting and maintaining some reality without causing distress.
There may come a time where you do need to enter into your mums reality rather than your own as your brain functions well enough to cope with it. Your mum will struggle to be interchangeable between what she perceives is reality and what she will be told is reality.
It's never easy and even with all the training in the world it's still frustrating and you will end up shouting 'don't be so bloody ridiculous your carers did not tell you to wear your underpants over your trousers'
Speaking from experience!
My MiL has dementia, we just go with the flow - imaginary friends, made up news, recitations of the tv guide- it’s ok. Best not to cause upset and distress because that can negatively impact physical health too.
The tip to steer the conversation into related areas is a good one, especially topics when she was younger. Just play along, if it gets too difficult, offer to make a cuppa. I found that will reset the conversation by just leaving the room briefly, the cuppa gets forgotten as well if you’re not actually ready for one
I think just go with the flow. But if it is irritating/saddening you, change the subject. I volunteer to sit and chat with people with dementia for short periods. I have no training! But soon found that correcting them didn't help conversation and seemed to make us both feel uncomfortable. I read somewhere up to 50% of people with dementia have depression so I think pointing out when they are wrong etc can be quite upsetting.
I just smile and sometimes have to use phrases like "I never thought of it that way" sometimes I read short passages from a magazine as it is (sometimes) easier to get a conversation when you are both talking about something "fresh" or let them talk about the past (and then I couldnt know if it is true or not as it is their memory)
One of the things a lot of people don't realise is that, whilst memories and events are often forgotten, the feelings and emotions aren't.
So if someone spends their time saying no your wrong, that's not how it is etc etc and, ultimately get frustrated, the person with dementia will often forget.
What they won't forget is the feeling that they were wrong and upset someone they know they care about. They'll just have no idea why or how to fix it.
This is what leads to the person behaving angrily or in a frustrated way. They know something is wrong or they did something wrong but are powerless to change it.
Go with it, deflect, distract if needed. If correction really is required then try not to get frustrated (easier said than done I know)
Oh thank you all for your kind, thoughtful and helpful answers.I guess my problem is I don't think we are quite at the stage of totally going with it but that may be denial/ wishful thinking on my part and if we are not quite there yet it's only a few months away. She does feel bad when she's 'reminded' all the time - I wouldn't like it so time to go with the flow I think-anyhow a change of career might be refreshing!
If you don't yet want to enter her world (and depending on exactly what's going on, there can be a while when things seem rather up and down - so the reasons for endorsing the not true versions might not quite apply), then the best thing to do is sidestep.
For example: "no, it's not me that's the teacher, but you're right it's half term" perhaps with a follow up if "any particular reason you've been thinking about schools?"
More good advice - especially as I just rang her ready to be a teacher and she knew exactly what I do for a job!
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.