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Should I correct a dementia patient?

13 answers | Last updated: Aug 22, 2014
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Q
An anonymous caregiver asked...
My friend is in the beginning states of dementia; should I correct her when she gets things wrong?
 

Answers
Caring.com User - Joyce Simard
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A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She...
93% helpful
answered...

Of course one of the first signs of dementia is "getting things wrong". My rule of thumb is to gently and respectfully correct the person unless this upsets them. When See also:
Expert Alzheimer's Tip: If your loved one loses track when giving directions

See all 923 questions about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
they become upset with being corrected it may mean that they have are frightened that they are losing their memory. Do not upset them more by telling them they are wrong. Whenever possible just ignore the what they have said and go to another subject.

It also might mean that they are in another stage of a dementing illness where their reality differs from yours. I just "fix the problem" and do whatever you can to make them feel better. When a woman is very upset that she needs to get home to care for her children (who are now grown) I simply tell her they are still at school or at their grandmother's house. Or I might simply be able to distract them with changing the conversation or deciding we should have a cookie and tea.
thanks for asking the question she is fortunate to have such a good friend.

 

More Answers
71% helpful
futuristic answered...

i think it's ok to correct in the beginning so the person does not slip into memory loss too quickly. perhaps it snaps them back to reality, sort of like pulling at a tow line to try and salvage.

 

98% helpful
AngilTarachRN answered...

Since your friend is having early memory loss, ask her what she prefers. Do not correct her publicly in front of other people because it can cause her embarrassment. One of the emotions people with early dementia or Alzheimer's experience is shame and embarrassment, even though they haven't done anything to get the illness and can't do much of anything to control it. We never want to feed into that emotion by correcting them in public, where it disrespects their emotions and ability.

Ask your friend if she would like reminders when she forgets something. If she does, use common sense and only offer reminder's when it really matters or you will feel like a nagging parent and she will feel like a child who can't get anything right.

You can always ask your friend if she would like you to help her set up reminders around her home, such as a calendar with her scheduled appointments and activities, reminders for hygiene, medications, date and time, phone numbers of close family members, friends and emergency contacts. If you can put photos of each contact with their name and number that would be very helpful.

Your friend will feel like you respect her and understand the difficulties she's having if you just talk to her about her wishes. Just because people have early memory deficits doesn't mean they still can't make decisions. Let her know you want to help her as much as possible prepare for further memory loss, then leave it up to her what she wants.

This kind of conversation will strengthen your friendship and provide her with the dignity and respect she deserves.

 

92% helpful
frena answered...

often, we can just step into the gap of error, helping out but not necessarily putting the person right. and, futuristic, it's nice you'd liek to help someone with dementia, but you can't fight their dementia. and too often, that is experienced by the person with dementia as you fighting them or making them wrong. people with dementia know there's something wrong. often they're very distressed at their own incapacity. so, the more we step up beside them, as friends and companions, the less alone and frightened they feel. we can't hold back dementia by telling them where they were wrong. that's like telling a man with a broken leg to run faster. being on their side, not fighting their disease -- that's what they most need from us in the fear and loneliness of knowing everything is slipping away. there's not one study that confirms putting people right helps dementia, but there are many that show support, kindness and acceptance really lower their stress level -- and, actually, our stress level too, as caregivers. if we really want to stress ourselves badly, then fighting someone else's dementia would be a great way to lay that burden on ourselves. no, kindness to another is kindness to ourself, and it's a very smart caregiving move too!

 

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80% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

First off, how do you recognize early stages of dementia? Seems to me that each incident has to be addressed separately. Key to me in any conversation is to be supportive and keep it pleasant.

 

100% helpful
frena answered...

since so very many other things look like what people think is dementia, it's better we don't diagnose but do just notice. the things we notice simply mean -- something's going on here, better find out what. shortform -- get me to the doctor! typical things we might notice are: memory lapses and glitches, not forgetting an appointment (normal age-related memory lapse) but not knowing what we did yesterday (not normal); becoming unable to do former tasks of everyday life -- keep up on bills, cook, drive the car without getting lost, no longer doing social things, losing things, not just glasses and wallet (normal) but clothes, kitchenware, other household objects, putting money and then unable to find it, burning pots, causing fires, withdrawing, mood changes, lack of insight into any of this. if we saw a couple of these things -- normal. if we see a whole slew of them, not normal. so the pattern of decline is what tells us something is wrong. we can't diagnose what. we need to help that person get help, starting with a medical check-up and perhaps the alzheimer's workup.

 

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95% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

In the beginning I did correct my husband, but as time went on I noticed it made him feel that I was critisizing him and he didn't like it at all. I have tried to stop doing it, and I will let it go IF it is not important. I'm always torn as to what to do because I feel if I don't correct he will think all is well. I have discovered since that he really doesn't retain anything I say so I'm not sure it makes a difference anyway. I cope the best I can and I'm sure he is doing the same.

 

77% helpful
Hedwig answered...

The problem is when the person with dementia makes incorrect statements of fact that impugn someone else's actions, motives or character, which can lead to expensive legal problems for that person. Accusations with legal consequences are serious!

 

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100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

More often than not a person with Dementia very often forget. I find the best solution to the problem is to go along with them providing they aren't in harms' way. When correcting them they feel embarrassed, sometimes annoyed and they will argue back. It has been my finding that mornings are somewhat better for a person with dementia in thinking, however as the day gets' longer and the outside darker they get worse in how they think as well as their speech. Hope this helps. My prayers' are with you.

 

67% helpful
604adnerb answered...

This is so individual, depending on the person's stage and level of awareness. What works for one may not work for another... I agree with futuristic - there is something to be said for 'snapping out of it' when it's still possible.

 

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80% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mom is in severe (mild to moderate) stages of Alzheimer's) She gets quite upset at being changed (only pulling off wet pull-ups & gowns, and baths, and taking off shoes for bed, and quite often getting into bed). She may cuss & hit and refuse - then my husband, in a very tuff voice, sometimes quite loud, tells her not to do what she is doing and that we are only trying to help her, and usually she calms right down! Really surprises me! She will even thank me when done! Is this a 'listen to man' thing?

 

100% helpful
j.stull answered...

Answer for Hedwig who said: " if the person with dementia makes incorrect statements of fact that impugn someone else's actions, motives or character there could be legal issues..." - I suggest the caregiver have business cards made up to hand out to persons in these cases to explain the situation without embarassing the person with dementia. The cards could say: My family member has Alzheimer's/dementia. He (she) might say or do things that are unexpected. Thank you for your understanding. Sharing these cards with people (such as store clerks/waiters, etc) in advance of problems occuring can make outings more comfortable for everyone.

 

100% helpful
kyliecorgi answered...

Through my own experience dealing with dementia patients in a hospital setting, I just go with it. If they repeat the same story, I act as though I'm hearing it for the first time, every time. Orienting a dementia patient to time and place can be futile in a hospital setting because they are away from their familiar environment. I've been a witness to seeing several staff members standing around a patients bed trying to attempt this. It only makes matters worse and things escalate.

 

 
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