It’s Wrong to Say It’s Wrong

December 6, 2013

Your sweater doesn’t match!   You’ve got lipstick on your cheek!   Your socks are two different colors!  The soup cans don’t go in the fridge!  Don’t do that!

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you may have said something similar.  It’s hard not to.  For many of us, we spend most of out lives trying to be right.  If you’re an accountant, you try to have good numbers.  If you’re a salesman you try to understand what your client needs and solve that problem.  If you’re a scientist, you take pride in the quality of your research.  Even setting ego aside, if a colleague is doing something wrong it’s important to help him get on the right track.

Sadly, all this goes out the window when a loved one has dementia.   If mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she is living in a world where her ability to do things right diminishes daily.   But does it matter? Aide with Woman and Walker

If it doesn’t hurt anyone, what’s the big deal?  Rather than correcting her, why can’t we say, “You look great, mom!”  “I love that sweater!  You’ve haven’t worn it in a while!”

Often, when we correct, we are trying to be helpful.  Mom has become like a little kid and by imparting our wisdom, she will learn.  Unfortunately the analogy does not carry.  A small child will learn because her brain is growing.  But mom will not learn because her brain is in decline.

When we correct, we send a message…  not just with words, but with tone and facial signals, that the person has been bad.   Despite her dementia, mom still understands that very clearly.

Stop saying it’s wrong.  Learn to find something good to say.  Mom has stopped growing.  That doesn’t mean we have to.



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