Is it common for dementia patients change stories they repeat to paint themselves in a better light?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Regarding dementia and repeating stories, my mother is 86 and she has ALWAYS repeated stories (it is bad enough that even her grandchildren 20 to 25 years ago noticed it). It seems to be getting worse although that may be due the fact that she is recovering from a hip replacement and I am spending a LOT more time with her than normal. The odd thing, and my question is, she has started to change many of the stories so that they paint HER in a MUCH better light than the earlier stories or the actual facts. Is this typical of someone with dementia?

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

Let's face it, describing ourselves in the best light is human. It's pretty common that elders repeat their favorite stories to the point of distraction to listeners. As their worlds shrink their stories tend to expand. A person's story of attending her high-school prom, could inflate to her being "prom queen." After all, who's around to contradict her? The difference between the storytelling of the able person and the demented person is that the latter may actually believe her fabrications. She see something on television or she may overhear someone else's tale and adopt it as her own. In most cases this storytelling harms no one and contradicting her or trying to correct her will only bring unnecessary stress to both of you.

If you think there's a chance she realizes that she's padding her tales, you can make a game out of it by taking turns adding fantastical twists and turns. This way you may end up rather than getting into a shouting match, you can share a good belly-laugh.

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Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Thanks, it is good to know that this is at least "normal" for someone with the early stages of dementia. Regarding harming no one, typically putting herself in a better light, usually means someone else has to look stupid, and/or evil (and many of these people are still around).