Quick reminder: In this space, we will regularly be writing about topics pertinent to dementia care, while focusing on articles, books, or online publications that have caught our attention. See our first post for more details.
From Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey by Jolene Brackey:
“You were taught not to lie to your parents under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances. This is a disease that has made this time (younger) in their life their truth. They cannot change their truth no matter how many times you correct them. All you have is this moment. What is the most loving thing to do in this moment? Make them feel better: ‘Mom will be right back.’ Or make them feel worse: ‘Your mom is no longer living.’ Keep changing your answer until you find the one that makes this person feel like everything is perfectly okay.” (p. 64)
Thomas: The last sentence is key. There is no correct answer for every person on every occasion. It is important, therefore, to know what could bring peace to this particular person. This is why memory care communities teach their staff to consistently communicate with one another regarding resident patterns and moods. Communication is vital. If an individual could react with anxiety or agitation to a certain intervention, all involved staff should be aware.
Maggie: Remember that we are entering their world. Even if your words are not true when taken at face value, what you are conveying to them is true. You are conveying that they are safe and everything is okay. Dementia really shakes up everything we thought we knew about how to act, what to say, how to relate, etc. Also, you aren't always going to say or do the right thing. Sometimes no matter what intervention you try, you ultimately have to just sit with the anxiety and let them express it. They might feel like you are not taking them seriously if you brush off their concerns with a simple answer. There are also scary moments where the person with dementia knows they are being lied to and is upset about it, but still cannot accept or understand the truth. During these moments, it is especially important to show that you are listening to them and validating their emotions.
Thomas Baird LCSW
Maggie Dawson MSW