My nan describes events of the day, that never happened. do I try and correct her?

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by martfred, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015
    My nan's memory has been gradually deteriorating over the past 8 years, and last year she had a stroke. It was clear to the hospital staff that my nan was very confused and her short term memory was all but gone.

    A carer visits the house morning and tea time to give her meds when I am unable to through work and to make her a ready meal for her tea. After the stroke I also moved into the house to care for her. My mum also helps with cleaning, washing and household duties and my uncle deals with hospital/medical appoinents.

    My nan will come up with stories about what she has done during the day, that have never happened, sometimes even nasty towards family members (I.e. my mum has taken her clothes or my uncle has taken her pension) none being true. She gets adamant and very defensive, I try to talk her round then she will turn on me. Do I just agree and encourage her descent into ttime fantasy stories or be as adamant as her in reassuring her what she thinks has never happened???

    I am finding things tough at the moment. This is just the tip of the iceberg, my nan potters around the house moving things ( ornaments, keys, purse, etc) and when she can't find them, is adamant people are coming into the house at night when she is in bed and moving or taking things. Between my job we are constantly playing hide and seek with her belongings.

    Also when it gets to around 10 p.m my nan will be sat in the front room of her house ( where she has lived for 50 years) and gets convinced she needs to 'go home'. I tell her she is at home and ask her where she means and again she becomes very defensive and says I am trying to muddle her up...

    Sorry for the massive post, I didn't intend on it being this long. If anybody has any advice I would be more than grateful. I feel I am fighting a losing battle that will only worsen in time
  2. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    People with dementia live in a different reality. To them, what they are saying is absolutely true. So please don't correct them. How would you feel if you KNEW an event to be true and the people around you constantly told you you were wrong? Here's a great link to an article about compassionate communication:
    Would she be willing to give a day centre a try? It would provide her with something to do instead of having to potter around the house and move things because she is bored.
    Lastly, the need to "go home" is very common. It sometimes means the childhood home but often just symbolises a place of safety. Again, don't correct her, just distract.
  3. Ann Mac

    Ann Mac Registered User

    Oct 17, 2013
    Hi Martfred, welcome to TP :)

    The issues you are describing can be very common with dementia - My Mil (Mum in law) is constantly confabulating (coming out with often very complex and detailed stories) things that have never happened, or has delusions that can be very paranoid and unpleasant - for example, she sometimes thinks her son is her husband, or that she has charge of a small child that has gone missing, or that she is in danger of being poisoned or in some way hurt either by us or from 'invented people'. The asking for 'home' is a really common feature of a condition called 'sundowning', again, something I have to deal with almost on a daily basis with Mil.

    In Mils case, the delusions and sundowning were so bad that we sought medical help, and she currently takes medication which - in her case - hasn't stopped these issues, but has toned them down massively. Worth speaking to her GP and asking for help if you feel its beyond you and that distraction or love lies don't work sufficiently well enough to bring her - and you - some relief.

    With Mil we distract - or at least try to, but it isn't always effective. What we have found effective more often is to break the cycle of either a paranoid delusion (and sometimes even sundowning) by firmly asking/telling her to go to her room as she is being rude/unpleasant, and refusing to engage in any discusion of whatever it is she is obsessing about. I think perhaps for Mil, removing her from the situation and from the possibility of any reaction that might 'feed' whatever the delusion is from us, she can quickly forget all about it and we then have her much calmer and less distressed. I have to emphasize though, that this doesn't always work, and may not work at all for others - its just something to consider if the compassionate communication doesn't work.

    I hope this helps xxxx
  4. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    Hello Martfred
    Im afraid that all of the things that you describe are typical of dementia - the accusations of slealings, thinking people are coming in , wanting to go home, delusions, confabulations (making up stories that are not true but she thinks are).

    If you try and correct her and tell her something is not true then it will only make her more confused and distressed, so the art of it is to try and re-assure her without saying (in effect) - no you are wrong. It wont work because she knows that she is right :(

    So, if its a harmless confabulation like mum thinking that her son came to visit her on a horse (he never comes to visit her and cant ride :rolleyes:) then I just say something like - well, I would have liked to have seen that. If she asks where her husband is (died 30 years ago) I say he is at work and she is usually happy. If she worries about going into work tell her you will phone up to say she wont be in today. You can get quite creative if necessary:D. They are known on here as love lies.

    You may be able to distract her with a drink and a biscuit, or by watching a DVD/TV (watch the content - mum has started confusing TV with reality and so it needs to be thoroughly censored) or going out for a short time (maybe just driving round the block)

    If she is asking to go home, what she really means is that she wants to go back to a time and place where she didnt feel confused. Dont try and convince her that it is her home - just get her to reminisce about her "home". You may well discover that "home" is a childhood home, or a fantasy place.

    The problem comes when it is a distressing delusion, like someone is hitting her, or some other nasty accusation, or fear of abandonment. In this case you cant IMO go along with it in case she remembers. She needs you to re-assure her. I have found that a useful phrase in this case is "I thought" or variation
    I thought it was a nightmare
    I think it will probably turn up
    I dont think anyone would do that

    Im afraid that you are not going to be able to bring her back into the "real" world. Although you may be able to jog her memory for a while, Im afraid it wont last. She feels confused and vulnerable, so your job is to reassure her.
  5. Kingfisher1

    Kingfisher1 Registered User

    May 7, 2015
    My 92 year old BIL is exactly the same. He is adamant that his mum (who by my reckoning would now be about 120 years old) is moving all his belongings into the spare room and making it impossible for him to get in there. He also accused my son of stealing his old bic razors and selling them at school. I used to get upset and angry with him for saying these things, but that just made him worse and even more adamant that these things had happened. Now I change the subject and that seems to work pretty quickly, and I tell myself this isn't really him talking, just the disease
  6. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    When my mother started this sort of accusation, I began by trying to convince her that X or Y would never do such a thing, or that whatever it was, was simply not true. However she would just become angry and accuse me of being 'in league' with whoever it was, and I came to realise that even cast iron proof would not have convinced her. The often-recommended distraction never worked with her when she had some sort of fixation, at least not for more than about 30 seconds, so I just started saying e.g., 'Dear me, that's terrible, I had no idea, I'll have see about that,' etc.

    The worst was when she became obsessed with the idea that her sister had 'stolen' their mother's house. I hated having to listen to her being so nasty about my poor aunt, but nothing would have convinced her, so I was endlessly telling her I would be getting on to a solicitor 'first thing tomorrow'. That would keep her 'happy' for a while, but this particular obsession went on for months
  7. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015
    Thanks for the response and advice beate.
    When I am not working I try and convince her to let me take her out for dinner or go shopping which sometimes works, and after the interaction, fresh air and exercise she is a new person. We have tried the day centre twice and she has enjoyed it, but getting her there is a nightmare. She is due to go today but the excuses have already started: 'I have my own friends, I do what I want' and 'I'm not hanging round with all the old people' hopefully will be able to talk her round and she will have a good day..

    Thanks again
  8. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015

    Hi Ann Mac, thanks for your response, the advice you have given is very helpful, your mil sounds very much like my nan.

    As with the small children episodes, my nan will often refuse to go to bed as she is waiting for "the children' who are playing football on the park to come home.

    The next time we visit the doctor I will mention this and see if any meds are suitable for her.

    Thanks again xx
  9. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015
    Hi canary,

    Thanks for the advice, all very useful pointers. I have already starting putting them into practice. Bit overwhelmed by how much support and great advice I have been given on this site. It already feels like a huge weight has been lifted. Nan had a day at day centre (we call it ladies day :) ) and she has had a top day and is in good spirits. Good times.

    Thanks again
  10. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015
  11. martfred

    martfred Registered User

    Jun 30, 2015
    Hi witzend, thanks for the response. Have had some great advice from people on this site, and I understand that this illness doesn't have a 'one size fits all' solution.

    I have tried the distraction technique, sometimes with success, other times not, and have gone full circle and reverted back to reasoning, which has never worked.

    I think your method of rolling with their idea and offering to follow up could be a winner. I know her illness won't improve but hopefully her delusions may subside in time with the right reassurance.

    Thanks again for the reply

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