Mar 05, 2015 - 08:23 AM
One of the principles we hold up here at The Fremont Memory Care is the Alzheimer's Association's best practice when dealing with memory loss: "Live in their world."
In terms of communication, this means that, as caregivers, we strive to understand and live in each resident's time, place and experiences. We rarely contradict a resident and we respect their memories as they remember.
Naturally, one of the skills that you will develop as a caregiver is the "fib," sometimes called "fiblet," or "white lie". As caregivers, sometimes we have to be creative about explaining the un-explainable. In your example, for instance, I might respond with "it's ok, he is just fixing a couple things for you today." Whatever your answer, there are two important pieces to the response to keep in mind: 1) Reassure your mom that everything is ok and/or is going to be ok, and 2) Create a plausible explanation so to minimize anxiety/fear.
Explaining that someone or something is not there is the last thing you want to do with anyone dealing with memory loss. Think of it as an example in your own life: I ate bacon this morning, and if someone tried to tell me that I didn't, I would think that person was crazy - not that I have a memory deficit. The same is true of everyone with memory loss because those "fabricated" memories aren't lies. They are, specifically, formed as memories in the brain to fill the deficit of lost time and in that process they become real.
I encourage you to pursue further reading on the topic by researching cueing, redirecting and Alzheimer's "fibs". Remember that your mom is unique and you will have to develop your own communication skills with her memory loss and current reality. You will find that there are times when a fib is the correct tactic and others where honestly is the best policy.
Below are a couple links that I hope you find helpful. Keep in mind that most of the resources available will speak relatively clinically about the subject: