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Memory Regression and Alzheimers Mom Thinks That Dad is Alive Should we correct her

As difficult as is to believe, much less accept, your loved one has Alzheimer's. Between the diagnosis and the end of the battle, will be endless puzzles, challenges, heartaches and decisions. I have worked with numerous Alzheimer patients, and my heart aches for you. That's why I want to share some vital information with you. I know you want to give the best care possible, and I also know that you will not be able to resist correcting your loved one when they say something that seems out of touch with your reality. Resist it.

Little by little, your loved one's memories will be eroded. Literally, the last memory in will be the first memory out; once that memory is gone, it's as if it never happened. To be brutally honest, trying to correct a statement that doesn't jive with your reality is cruel and chips away at their dignity. Before you decide to quit reading, let me explain.

Here is a very common example: Mom says, "I must get dinner ready because your dad will be home from work soon.You know that your dad has passed away, and you feel as if you're helping her by reminding her that he has been gone for years. Let me pause here and say that response is normal because we mistakenly believe that if we correct mom's misconception, then she will snap back to reality. That's our misconception no matter how good our intentions are. Without realizing it, you have potentially done the following harm: At the least, you have embarrassed her.

You need to realize that the memory of her husband's death is gone, and every time you "remind" her, she's just received the news for the first time. How would you feel if someone told you that your husband died. Each time you tell her that dad is dead then you are putting her through the same emotions you would be feeling if you received the news for the first time. One of the most important things you can do is to preserve her dignity.

There will be a time when she forgets that her husband passed away. It's her truth. Since she has no memory of her husband's death, it's as if you are not telling the truth, even though it's your truth. Okay, so what do you do? First you acknowledge (validate) her feelings.

You might say, "Yes, mom, we need to be thinking about dinner." Then you redirect her attention. "Don't worry about dinner, mom, we are going out to dinner as soon as dad gets home. Why don't you go freshen up? Do you still have that nice mauve lipstick? By the way, where did you get that lipstick - I would like to get some for myself. I really like this pink lipstick, but do you think that red would look better?" See where I'm going with this? You are being where she is, and you have preserved her dignity while distracting her from her worry. You can say anything that will satisfy her emotional need, even if it's not your truth.

Whatever you say to ease her concern or agitation has done no harm, and in fact, has kept her from being traumatized. Chances are, she won't even mention it least that day. If your loved one insists on running to the store for groceries, please don't remind her that she can't drive anymore.

In her world, she is perfectly capable of driving. Either tell her the car is being serviced, or tell her that the car has a mechanical problem that will be fixed tomorrow. If worse comes to worse, there is a device that you can use to temporarily disable the car, in case she tries to drive it. (See the link to the Alzheimer's Store) Remember that they are in a different time and place; if not now, it's a fact that they will be soon.

Be where they are, validate and re-direct, and you will preserve your loved one's dignity. God bless you, each and every caregiver, for everything you do, and for all that you go through to keep your loved one at home. It's often a thankless job, and nobody can truly understand what it's like unless they go through it themselves.

Brenda Dapkus, Co-founder of Alzheimer's Family Help in Asheville, NC. We provide solutions to behaviors common to Alzheimer's and dementia. For more tips visit us at the above link.

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