"She's cute, but she's cuckoo...You can't tell how much of what she says is what she thinks. And you can't tell how much of what she thinks ever really happened."
~ Dashiell Hammett, 1934
What I have come to believe is that the important thing during conversations are not the FACTS or the STORY itself but the feelings she is somehow trying to convey.
I have learned suspend disbelief about the story itself and try to discern the feelings under the surface. The story is best seen as an allegory for some feeling she has. When I interact in that way the result is more discussion, more confidence, calm and being more present. If I try to correct to 'clarify' the interaction can quickly turn combative, defensive and aggressive.
"And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer. The sad truth is that what I could recall in five seconds all too needed ten, then thirty, then a full minute - like shadows lengthening at dusk. Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness."
I watched during a chance encounter with an old friend who is unaware of her dementia. Her old friend handled the encounter with grace but, i was obviously confused and concerned for her. The old friend shot quick glances at me seemingly for some sort of unspoken explanation. I wondered, what should I do? Smile and continue to prompt/fill in words ideas for her or somehow explain to the old friend everything is fine (which is likely all anyone wants to hear) when it truly is not?
In the end all I could muster while holding back the urge to cry was, smile and continue to prompt/fill in words ideas for her.
I am learning that with dementia, someone else's dignity is more valuable than the truth.
"A white lie is always pardonable. But he who tells the truth without compulsion merits no leniency." ~Karl Kraus
"None of us wants to be reminded that dementia is random, relentless, and frighteningly common."
"That's the thing with dementia. If you're with somebody who has a serious illness, you can usually talk to them, have a laugh every now and then - the person is still with you. With dementia, there's no conversation; there's no togetherness, no sharing."
"I am daily learning
To be the reluctant guardian of your memories
There was light in those eyes; I miss that"
~Richard L. Ratliff
"I believe that most caregivers find that they inherit a situation where they just kind of move into
caregiving. It's not a conscious decision for most caregivers, and they are ultimately left with the
responsibility of working while still trying to be the caregiver, the provider, and the nurturer."
~Sharon Law Tucker
"Even though people experiencing dementia become unable to recount what has just happened, they still go through the experience - even without recall.
The psychological present lasts about three seconds. We experience the present even when we have dementia. The emotional pain caused by callous treatment or unkind talk occurs during that period.
The moods and actions of people with dementia are expressions of what they have experienced, whether they can still use language and recall, or not."
~Judy Cornish, The Dementia Handbook: How to Provide Dementia Care at Home