A woman with Alzheimer’s asked her daughter, “Am I crazy?” and the daughter not knowing how to reply posted on Facebook, “What should I say to her?”
It was interesting the myriad of replies. It made me think about what you should say to someone when they are aware something is wrong with their mind but they don’t know they have dementia.
Some of the comments were:
- “No Mom, you’re not crazy… your brain just works differently.”
- “Dad. Your brain has been working hard for 90 years and it’s just a little bit tired after all that thinking.”
- “Nawl you are 94!!”
- “Tell her no! She is NOT crazy”
- “Aren’t we all”
They are trying to calm their loved one by diminishing or negating the problem. However, it’s important to validate their feelings when they reach out trying to understand their feeling of crazy. To think they are crazy, is terrifying. It isn’t a common occurrence for a person with dementia to admit or be aware there is something wrong with their mind. Far more common is they don’t realize it; they try to hide it or insist everyone else is the problem.
Here’s some of the comments that did validate feelings:
- I tell my mother, “You has a disease that causes you to have trouble remembering.”
- “Reassure her she isn’t crazy. Just tell her it’s the disorder, not her. That I know her heart and love her as much as ever.”
- “You are not crazy, but you have trouble remembering things, but I am here we’ll deal with it together”
Validating their feelings is very important. The few times I’ve encountered a person asking about whats wrong with their mind, my following reply always seemed to calm them.
“You have a condition that the doctor says causes you to feel confused and not remember things. But you will never be alone. We are all here for you and you are loved just as you are.”
When they are asking about being crazy be aware it isn’t usually just about losing memory. They perceive the world differently, get lost in familiar surroundings, maybe see things that aren’t there, or can’t follow the steps to make a sandwich anymore. There are times when you have to go along with delusional thinking and lie. Like when they ask when their mother whose been dead for 30 years is coming back. If you tell her, she’s dead she relives her loss as though her mom just died; every time. Then there are those times when honesty is important. Even with dementia a person needs to know what’s wrong with them, if they ask.
I don’t recommend using the word dementia because it does have connotations to insanity. Using the “condition” is softer for most. Including the doctor diagnosis makes it credible and then telling them no matter what, they are loved as they are and will never be alone. The latter is actually the most important. Feeling like you’ve lost your mind is having no control and feeling unsafe. They need to know they are safe and loved in spite of it.