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Why Do Seniors with Dementia Lie?

by Carole Larkin, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
September 05, 2013

Question: My grandmother who has been diagnosed with Dementia lies often and I can't figure out why. She gets nasty when I question her and it's making me very frustrated. Please help me understand this behavior.

Answer: The brain cells of people with dementia are dying in varying portions of their brains, so those portions no longer function like an undiseased brain does. Those people are prone to misunderstanding what we call “reality”. Their brains can’t process things (stimuli) as fast or as correctly as before. They can many times feel that something is wrong with their brains early in the disease. Some tell their knowledge out loud. Some keep that knowledge to themselves.  At any rate it is very scary to think that you are losing your mind. Fear is with them day and night. People generally react to fear one of two ways; Fight or Flight. Fight comes out as anger, paranoia, agitation and other “negative” behaviors. Flight comes out as withdrawal inward. Sometimes people do both Fight and Flight. One of the things a caregiver can do to tamp down these behaviors is assure the person with Alzheimer’s that they are safe and loved. No one wants to be alone and in fear. People with the disease are trying to communicate their feelings and their communication skills are growing less and less. They get frustrated at this. Wouldn’t you? A constant positive feeling directed towards them is the way to quell their fears, at least for the moment.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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