It’s pretty standard for a person with dementia to have delusional beliefs. They think their parents are still alive; they may want to get ready for work, find their child, or most frequently, ask to go home and drive the car. Usually, the caregiver or family tried to reason with them; “Mom, your parents died 30 years ago…“You are home…you don’t drive anymore.”
What should you do or say?
This is where what I call “Creative Storytelling” becomes a necessary skill. This is the ability to create a related story that validates the delusional belief. This takes practice, and instead of being something stressful for the care person, it can be an exercise in creativity.
“Your mom went shopping, and she’ll be back later…We will go home after lunch…or the cars in the shop and will be ready next week, Dad.”
You may consider this to be lying. But realize the person with dementia cannot be reasoned with because this is what they believe, and they will mistrust you and think you are lying if you disagree with them. Every time you tell them the truth that their parents are dead, they will grieve their loss as though they just died; every time.
Use memory loss to your advantage. When you tell the person their mother will be back later, they will forget shortly after. The important part is they are validated and calm with that answer versus your mom has been dead for years.
Remember, every time your loved one gets stressed, cortisol and adrenaline are released into their body, and the effects sometimes last for hours. They aren’t aware they are stressed or why because they will have forgotten what you said. However, the physical and emotional after-effects will linger and often cause difficulties in other areas. Better to tell them the story than upset them.
This will be a constant exercise, and you will learn to become quite adept at developing stories that correspond to their belief. Remember “Creative Storytelling” will help ease your job caring for a person with dementia: it’s challenging enough already.