If your parent has dementia, it can be tricky when a care provider asks him or her direct questions. The nurse says, “Do you have times when you can’t make it to the bathroom in time?” Your parent answers, “No.”
You know otherwise. So how do handle the dementia version of the facts? Two responses immediately spring to mind. Contradicting your parent in front of an authority–even if you’re right–doesn’t work. It sets off a chain of defensiveness. A better way is to wait until after the formal conversation is finished to correct the mistakes in private.
Often my clients teach me things I’d never know otherwise. Not long ago I observed a third way to handle skewed facts caused by dementia. An adult child sat next to her father, who had Lewy Body Dementia. Across from them sat a social worker who did his “intake”: a series of questions designed to pinpoint care needs.
As the social worker began to ask questions, it became apparent that the older man’s answers didn’t match the reality. For example, when the incontinence question came up, the parent shook his head. “No problems.”
His daughter quietly slid her chair back a few feet. Because of his diminished peripheral vision, caused by dementia, her parent could no longer see her body language. She “corrected” his answers, simply by nodding or shaking her head, and taking notes on certain points that needed explanation later.
Who would have guessed that simply sliding a chair could have made such a big impact in ferreting out the truth while maintaining an elder’s dignity? We listen. We learn. We grow.