Can some of the events my sister remebers be false?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 17, 2016
Bobbin asked...

My sister talks about the past quite a lot and will tell of events involving a particular person and she will rave how wonderful they were, where in reality I can remember she actually loathed them, and visa versa. What is happening?

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear Bobbin:

I'm sorry you have to deal with the challenge of a loved one with memory loss. I'm assuming your sister has been to a doctor and there is a valid diagnosis of memory loss. If not, that's a first step. If she has been diagnosed, the issue is now why her memories match up with your recall of those same people & events.

Yes, it's quite possible that your sister is "creatively" recalling events of the past that are far different from the reality of what actually took place. That can be an aspect of dementia.

Sadly, as a caregiver, you are now required to react to those stories "“ both factual and fantasy "“ with a very different response than you would if she were not suffering from a debilitating memory problem. And sometimes doing that isn't easy.

Does it really matter if her memories of people and events aren't accurate? Is it really vitally important that she get her "facts" correct? No, in the current scheme of things, it's really not.

Hearing what she says may seem odd to you, and your reaction may be a desire to correct her. But honestly, why should it matter, especially to you? There's no harm in her recalling things the way she does. Yes, it can be frustrating knowing that she hated "Aunt Gertie" whom she now speaks of so lovingly, but honestly, who cares?

I can truly identify with you, because for a long time I found myself constantly "correcting" my mother when she would recall a person or event and have her facts all wrong. It really bothered me. This went on for almost a year until one day I actually said out loud to myself, "What the heck does it really matter? I'm trying to win an unwinnable fight with a disease. You know, it's easier and hurts no one to just let her remember things the way she chooses to do so." For me that was an epiphany.

I suggest that a similar conversation with yourself will do both of you a world of good. You'll no longer be concerned or upset if your sister is factually correct, and your sister will be delighted that she will no longer be corrected for her recollection of events, even if you and everyone else knows that they may not be accurate.

You have to get to the place where you can accept the fact that your sister is dealing with a problem that cannot be fixed.

It's wonderful thing that your sister can talk about things she remembers, and you can encourage her by approaching it as a game that you play to keep her mentally active and engaged. Her recall, whether right or wrong isn't relevant, but her speaking, conversing, and pushing herself to remember is important. So I suggest that you encourage that and don't get caught up in the "true or false" contest.

You're lucky you have a sister, and she's lucky she has you. Enjoy the time together, and as they taught us in some of the business classes in the schools I attended, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

Good luck, you're a good sister, and what you're doing is very special. Keep up the good work.