I have a friend who is currently caring for her older adult mother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I recently asked my friend the question, “What is it that you wish you had known before you started taking care of your mother that you know now?” I found her answer interesting. There is no right or wrong response; it is just fascinating to hear what is considered most valuable information in the eyes of a caregiver.
My friend told me that she wished she had known not to correct her mother when she talked and wasn’t accurate in conversation. Is it relevant to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or in the end of life that they said “good morning” when it was actually evening? What are the consequences of correcting that individual?
There are a number that compound each other. There is a good chance that the individual is going to think he or she is being reprimanded. What older adult wants to get reprimanded by someone caring for them? It’s embarrassing to the individual as well that she made such a mistake. This can lead to the frustration of the individual and the caregiver. This frustration can consequently result in upset on both parties, including anger. When this occurs, it interferes with the care. Care can become more difficult when good communication dissolves. Good communication does not necessarily mean accurate conversation.
The individual being corrected is now frustrated and upset and so is the caregiver. The most important consequence is that it can lead to a reduction in future conversations. Caregivers often have difficulty placing themselves in their loved one’s reality and understanding the significance of this action to their loved one’s benefit.
Here are a few tips that will hopefully help: First, don’t correct the individual. That good morning could mean, “It is good to see you.” Simply responding accordingly sends the same message back to the person you love. Isn’t that what is most important?
Second, don’t lie to your loved one. An individual with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty with memory, but that does not make that individual any less intelligent. If your loved one is asking when someone is coming to see them, do not tell them that person is coming by today if you know they are not coming. It creates distrust.
Third, be in the moment. This means your loved one’s moment, whatever time and place that may be. This lends to the point my friend was trying to make. Be thankful for the conversation that you are having with your loved one. Enjoy it. It is special and valuable time between the two of you.