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Dementia - advice please

(32 Posts)
Franbern Sat 06-Mar-21 10:05:21

Yesterday I had a phone conversatiion with my ex sister-in -law. She is in her eighties, in a very good home, and is getting increasingly confused. She has been divorced from my late brother for nearly fifty years and remarried over forty years ago.. That husband is in the same home, in a different room and she refuses to have anything to do with him.

She is now confusing him with her first husband, Indeed, on the phone yesterday she actually told me that 'my brother' was not at all well at present (My brother has been dead some fifteen years).

I knew she meant her second husband and tried to correct her - then wondered if that was the correct thing to do or whether I should just have gone along with how she was thinking. She was also very confused about her own children and their children.

Just wondered as to how I should talk with her in the future. Is it right to try to correct her, or will this just make her even more confused??

Pinkarolina Sat 06-Mar-21 10:09:35

It’s best not to correct her as it will make her more confused, fretful and go through the early stages of bereavement if you tell her he has died. Allow her to live happily with dementia and in the world she now inhabits in her head.

Bridgeit Sat 06-Mar-21 10:11:06

I would say don’t try to correct her, but just say something like. ‘ ohh did you mean (insert name ) or do you mean ( insert name) the same with events etc , ie was it this . Or perhaps it was that.
Either way reassurance , kindness & patience is the better way .best wishes .

FannyCornforth Sat 06-Mar-21 10:11:29

Hello Franbern
Just to let you know that I've sent you a PM

MerylStreep Sat 06-Mar-21 10:12:33

I garden for a lady ( cared for at home ) who refers to her own daughter as mummy.
When I converse with the lady I go into her world: she can’t come into mine.

Oopsadaisy1 Sat 06-Mar-21 10:13:02

I went along with everything my Mum said, every time the staff told Mum my Dad was no longer with us, it was awful, so I spoke to the Sister in charge of the ward and almost begged them not to correct her, just let her be happy.
I would visit and she was so happy, telling me how much she loved being on holiday in this ‘lovely Hotel’ and that most days they pushed all the chairs back and they had dancing.....

BlueSky Sat 06-Mar-21 10:14:16

Yes I believe the current advice is now not to correct them.

Granny23 Sat 06-Mar-21 10:14:25

Best not to correct her. Just say something like -"I know who you mean. What is the matter with him?

It is good of you to still care about her and keep in touch. Best place for advice on dealing with Dementia is the Alzheimer's Society's Talking Point web site.

Thoro Sat 06-Mar-21 10:14:46

Agree with Pinkarolina - also you can try and distract her by changing the subject

Callistemon Sat 06-Mar-21 10:20:33

I have pmd you too, Franbern

Blossoming Sat 06-Mar-21 10:25:48

My elderly Aunt became confused in her last few years. She believed she was living in a hotel, not a nursing home, and as she seemed to be happy we just went along with it. It is better not to correct her, she may become distressed. Just go along with how she is on the day. It was sad to see a once feisty and adventurous lady lose some of herself though.

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 10:31:59

Exactly what granny23 said. Talking point is brilliant.

I help deliver courses for people caring for someone living with dementia. The advice is to enter their world, not correct and to distract.

You could try googling the Bookcase Model of memory which gives a really good visual illustration of memory loss in dementia.

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 10:34:01

The link to Talking Point

Jaxjacky Sat 06-Mar-21 10:37:07

My Mum thought she was in a hotel too, isn’t that odd, seems to be common, but it meant she was settled. I never corrected her and advised other family members to do the same, it’s very hard at times, but less distressing for the person.

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 10:37:30

The bookcase model of memory

Redhead56 Sat 06-Mar-21 10:37:48

My mother had dementia she had different moods each day when I went to sit with her. Know one tells you what to expect or how to deal with it so it's a learning curve a difficult one.
At first I would finish her sentence off when she forgot what she was about to say. I soon learnt to hold her hand and change the subject to her grandchildren.
She had angry days and I would be verbally and physically attacked. There would be days she would sing and be like her old self. I cannot put into words how I felt at the time.
Dementia turned her into a person I did not recognise it was one of the worse times of my life. My advice remind her of your brother the courting days and marriage. The older memories seem stronger than the more recent ones.

Callistemon Sat 06-Mar-21 10:43:35

Thank you kittylester

I wonder if phone calls are more difficult than actual visits? Not able to give someone a reassuring hug is so upsetting.

I'm worried that my SisIL won't know who we are by the time this lockdown ends

Sara1954 Sat 06-Mar-21 10:43:44

My late mother in law suffered with dementia , she talked about her mother visiting, a visit from the queen, who was apparently most disrespectful, being very late.
My husband couldn’t bear it, and kept correcting her, the rest of us just went with the flow, which of course had its poignant moments, but was also very funny at times.

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 11:06:37

I think they are callistemon. Someone with dementia needs all the clues they can get. The upside is that, generally, the person will be pleased with any interaction even if they are not sure who they are talking to.

I presume most people caring for someone with dementia knows the power of music! There is a really good online Dementia Radio from the BBC where you can choose the era. Or so I believe.

FannyCornforth Sat 06-Mar-21 11:09:45

I knew that you'd come up with the business Kitty!

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 11:33:15

Sorry, I am a bit evangelical. blush

FannyCornforth Sat 06-Mar-21 11:48:34

Gosh Kitty, don't be sorry (or blush). You're brilliant!

kittylester Sat 06-Mar-21 12:33:48

Now I am blushing.

I know the theory but walking the walk is so difficult and carers are only human.

Franbern Sat 06-Mar-21 18:59:40

Many thanks for all the advice and support here. I am not particularly close to this ex sister-in-law. Unfortunately, when her marriage to my brother broke down (entirely his fault), she behaved badly in that she stopped all communication between my parents and their g.children. Broke their hearts. I can still remember seeing the notice of the eldest girls wedding in a newspaper, and taking my parents to sit in the public gallery of the synagogue to watch their eldest g.child walk down the aisle.

They were not invited to the g.sons barmitzvah - (resulting some years later of me persuading my eldest boy to become barmitzvah - strange in a strongly atheistic family). He understood and his g.parents were so very happy.

However as soon as my niece was married she started to visit her g.parents and I have had a strong relationship with her ever since. I have always been invited to all their family occasions and they to ours.

I have seen her Mother over past years at my twice yearly visits to my niece, and we have got on pretty well. The problems were all many decades ago.

So when my niece (now, herself a g.parent) asked me to telephone her Mum in the home, I happily agreed to do so. The first time, was no problem and we chatted quite well. Does seem to have been serious deteriorating now - perhaps Lockdown is part of the problem. She did know who I was, although (I heard today), that when one of her gdaughters phoned her in the afternoon, she did say she had received a telephone call from someone that morning, but could not remember from whom.

I now understand far more about this condition, and also know not to try to correct anything as it could lead to more confusion and stress. Just seemed so strange to me when she told me my brother was not well - I know she was referring to her second husband of some forty years - but it was still a jolt to me as my brother has been dead for some 15 years.

Thanks to everyone, do love how we can so quickly get some good advice on virtually any subject on Gnet.

Witzend Sat 06-Mar-21 19:15:23

We had to learn this the hard way, but it’s usually no earthly use trying to correct or reason with someone with dementia. You just have to go along with whatever it is, as far as possible, or tactfully change the subject if you can, but this can be easier said than done if the person has some ‘bee’ furiously buzzing in their bonnet.

E.g. my mother once got it into her head that her sister (who thankfully she never saw) had ‘stolen’ their mother’s house. At first I tried gently correcting her, but she’d just get really angry and accuse me of being ‘in league with’ my poor aunt.

So in the end (this ‘bee’ went on a long time) I just started saying, ‘Dear me, that’s awful, I had no idea - I’ll get on to the police/a solicitor first thing tomorrow.’

In other words, anything to pacify her for the moment. Because her short term memory was so bad, she never remembered that I’d said much the same before.

You do develop strategies for this sort of thing, but they can be extremely disconcerting at first.
All the best.