How to Handle False Storytelling In Social Situations?

10 answers | Last updated: Sep 11, 2016
Little al asked...

My spouse was in the Navy for over 20 years. He was never in combat and is now telling everyone that he was on Normandy Beach during the war and had his boat shot out of the water, broke all his teeth, flipped the boat over all marines fell out, etc, etc, etc.... How do I handle the reactions people have about his heroic actions which never happened?


Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Delusions as well as memory loss often characterize dementia. Storytelling is not much different from delusional thinking and the guiding principle often is to allow someone their delusions unless they are harmful to the person or to others. Your spouse remembers he was in the Navy and now needs to believe he was a 'hero'. It is important to tell those you trust and spend time with about your husband's cognitive changes. Hopefully, others he speaks with understand his dementia and allow him to maintain this delusion; it may help his sense of worth.


Community Answers

Kluckyone answered...

I have been diagnoised with dementia ,should I be aware of not telling the truth ?


Thamley answered...

My father does the same thing. He was WWII 2 years and he also never saw active combat, was navy cook. He has everone convinced he was shot and left at sea over a week and shot and killed 100's of "Japs" all by himself. It's really sad.


Little al answered...

Thamley, I know It is so sad and difficult to explain to people. He told so many people these stories that a few of our neighbors believe him. It is so hard to be still and not come out and say "no, that never happened". I have explained to our closest friends what is going on but have found that they are uncomfortable around him now and stopped visiting. This only makes me feel lonelier than before I explained the situation.... what's the answer? I don't really think there is one.


Thamley answered...

Thanks Little Al. I would never correct him in the presence of others. I did make some of his Aides aware. They thought he still had a bullet in his shoulder. That's his biggest story, holding his shoulder and complaining about the pain from his gunshot and how they were gonna cut his arm off.

A tough weekend, by myself and he has been more difficult than usual...thinks he has cancer and we are refusing to get him treatment. Another level of his despair. God be with us, with comfort and patience. Take care, T


Little al answered...

Yes, I pray to God all the time to give me strength to get through this and what is to come... my prayers will include you from now on. God Bless.


Nana4nana answered...

Go with the flow. Sometimes I make eye contact with the listener, smile, shake my head no- then promptly join the fun! Who cares? Treat mental issues the same as a broken leg. You wouldn't expect someone with a broken leg to walk, right?


A fellow caregiver answered...

Some people with dementia can be very convincing, particularly in brief interactions with casual or new acquaintances. I do not believe that false stories told as reality should be just skated over, giving precedence to the delusional person's beliefs over the good faith of everyone else hearing the story and being lied to. That damages the social fabric and will boomerang back on the delusional person and his loved ones. While it may be hurtful or unhelpful to the person to contradict him openly, the other people also deserve consideration. Don't let them walk away believing and retelling a delusional story. Don't assume they know which parts of it are invented. And especially, any part of the fabrication that casts someone in a bad light or makes unfounded accusations must be contradicted then and there, regardless of whether doing so hurts the delusional person's feelings. Being delusional does not make you king. It does not mean that others must suffer false accusations in silence or without being vouched for. Paranoia and accusations are common with dementia and corrosive to relationships. Caregivers and hapless workers who may be accused of stealing must be stood up for when unjustly accused.


Newdream answered...

My local Alzheimer's society gave me business cards to hand out in difficult situations. They explain very briefly that my mom has cognitive impairment, and the Alzheimer's Society's logo is on the back. I use these at restaurants, etc if she has been difficult or confused. Very simple solution - but it works.


Rit answered...

My husband also exaggerates his military experience. I really wish he would not do that to strangers but there are just some things I must let be and not sweat it. There are too many other things to deal with that must be dealt with. I like Newdream's answer. The Alzheimer's business cards is a great tool.