My mother has problems with dates. She laughs when I tell her that it is not 1990, that it is 2010. Is this a sign of dementia or Alzheimer's?

Asked by
Answers 1 to 10 of 20
My mother-in-law has lost all touch with keeping tabs on the date/time/year etc. She has the beginning of dementia and it's the short term memory that is gone. She never knows what day of the week it is anymore, I just get used to answering her when she asks. No big deal anymore.
What is the harm of it being 1990? Lord knows I would LOVE to be 20 years younger, (and NO I don't need counseling to deal with my aging! LOL) Trying to convince her that is is 2010 is pointless, don't you think?

The 'year' would change for my mother depending on the type of day she was having. BUT, I learned to live in the year she was in. In fact to figure out what 'decade' she was experiencing, I would ask her how many children she had, or how OLD she was. This would give me a clue as to what 'year' it was.

It is easier to live in their reality than to keep trying to drag them back into 'our reality'. And since you know your mother well (I hope) you will be able to 'play along' with her so she is comfortable.

Validation therapy has proven to be most effective in dealing with Alzheimer's / dementia.

Just be sure that the place she is living in provides advanced supervision should she need it.
Mia, you bring up an interesting point that I've been wondering about - is it best to attempt to keep our elders grounded in the present day/time/reality and correct them when they say things which are blatantly untrue (to us), or is it perhaps better to simply agree with whatever comes out of their mouths and move on?

I know that previous medical thinking told caregivers to do the former...keep our loved ones in reality. I believe the logic behind that was that keeping them aware would keep them more focused (please correct me if I'm wrong here). However, that seems to have changed, and the current theory is to let them be happy and tell you whatever they wish with no corrections. I can see the logic behind both, but here's my personal opinion: Telling Mom that no, she was never a professional golfer would lead to her trying to defend herself by telling more "stories," which would lead to my trying to refute them, which would lead to frustration, anger and both parties walking away in a huff. However, just saying "Oh yes" to the professional golfer comment and moving the conversation elsewhere (or letting it die right there) would lead to......well, just another interesting visit to Fantasyland with no harm done. After all, when you're 89 years old, have no short term memory, can't remember what day it is (or care), what's the harm in reminiscing about your days on the tour? Really, who cares whether or not you were actually there?

Would be interested in hearing other opinions.....
Top Answer
J: Live in their reality ESPECIALLY if it is a happy one!! Like all the positive things that you said, when you can't remember literally from one minute to the next, wouldn't you be making things up too? We all need to feel connected to something.

I am not a therapist but I did listen to the 'stories' my mother was telling me. I also watched my brothers correct her every time she said something that wasn't 'true' or accurate, and then I watched her mood deteriorate after that. They would tell her: "NO Mom, Dad isn't coming home, he died 39 years ago" Did it matter that my father WASN'T coming home? She just wanted to know if he was SAFE, since he wasn't there.

Oh... when she regressed to where she didn't recognize herself in the mirror, I removed the mirrors!! In fact I posted a 'funny story' here after I heard her asking "Who WAS that old LADY in the mirror that seems to follow her around" and I told her that was ME... she was the 'much younger one standing NEXT to her! She smiled and walked off. What good would it have served to tell her that SHE was the old lady and her life was almost over!

If your Mom is saying she was a golf pro, then get her a few books of all the 'courses' and ask her how she did on each one. Or just let HER make her own stories. CONFABULATION is a topic you can look up to understand more about this phenom. But haven't we all embelished here or there on a story? I know I have and I have also told therapeutic lies whenever necessary to keep Mom in a happy mood.

As long as the stories she is telling are positive, RUN with them. If they turn negative, that is when you have to be more creative. For example, if she is concerned about the 'children not being home from school' and wants to go look for them. Telling her that your 'aunt/uncle/trusted person' is picking them up and we have a FREE day to do what we like!

It sounds like your mother just wants to have SOME kind of memories and stories to tell that will make people want to be around her.

Also what she is exposed to on TV, radio, newspaper and even conversations you are having may contribute to her 'new reality'. My mother would react to the news negatively (who doesn't) and then want to know when "this war would be over and Dad would be home". (WWII???) I changed to the food channel and HGTV for entertainment instead of the news.

Correcting someone with Alzheimer's is pointless. Trying to keep them in the now, in THIS reality is a waste of time and has the possibility of being very damaging, in my HUMBLE opinion. Keeping them aware of things seems like a good idea, but you will see just how pointless it is. Have them use ANY skills they have is a great idea, but don't correct what they do. If they don't wash the dishes right, *(quietly put them in the dishwasher when they are not looking, or have THEM put the 'cleaned dishes' right in the dishwasher for 'storage' and then just run the machine when they are not looking. This worked like a charm for my mother. Same thing with 'laundry'.

I would be interested in hearing from others on this too but I know that there will be a 'split decision' too. What works for some (of us) may not work for others.
Hmmm....asking Mom about anything is always tricky. Even a harmless "was that a tough course to play?" would result in confusion. I've found that I can never, ever ask her a direct question. "Tell me about that course" is what I said, and I actually got a reply. Okay, so it was only "Well, you know, it was a golf course like all the others," and she wouldn't elaborate and turned back to her dinner. I made the mistake of ASKING, " Was it a pretty course?" She looked at me and asked "Was what pretty?" "The golf course you were telling me about." "What golf course?" "The one you played on the tour." "Oh." Pause. "Well, it was a golf course like all the others." (sigh)

It's funny you mentioned the "old lady in the mirror." My mom has never mentioned any strange mirror phenomena, but she does talk about the "little girl we live with" who's always following her around. I wonder if that's actually herself. Yes, I've tried to get more information about her, but always end up in that endless loop of conversation.
Your situation poses even more challenges than mine did. BUT... as long as that 'little girl we live with" is not upsetting your mother, I wouldn't be worried.

And it sounds like you 'play along' with her on her stories,and that is a very good thing. Keep up the good work. And I will help you any way I can.
My dad was always a quiet man. He pretty much remained that way with his Alz until he passed. The only times he got combative were with my mother. I think she corrected him all the time and kept him riled up. When I was with him, I just tried to go with whatever his mood was. Once in a restaurant, he started acting up so I had to take him to the car and sit with him while the others finished their dinner. That was hard for me to take, having to treat my dad like he was 7 but he probably was 7 in his mind.
In my experience with dad, things went better when he wasn't pressured or corrected to be in the present or to act a certain way. Dad was thinking in the past tense and I felt it more respectful to let him stay there.
I find it funny that every time my mother-in-law remembers a story from her past, it changes. She either can't remember the details anymore, or she just changes it because. Those times I let it go, who cares right? BUT when she starts talking about people that work at her asst living place that are stealing her bananas, I have to step in. I tell her, 'no one is sneaking into your apartment and stealing your freaking bananas'. She will not be persuaded otherwise though. It used to be her clocks they were stealing, now it's her bananas. Either way it's always something of hers that someone is stealing. Most things I let go with her and don't argue anymore, but that stealing her stuff thing bugs me still. She and I used to do a hunt and search ritual every time I went to see her to find the things that she hides, and thinks are being stolen. Stop with the bananas already!! :)
My mother also has started making up stories to fill in the blanks for herself. Last weekend my sister took her to the beach for a few hours and when she got home she told me she had a wonderful time. The next day she confessed to me that my sister wasn't watching her and she went into the water and got swept out to sea, thankfully the life guards got to her before it was too late. Well it took everything I had not to crack up laughing because I knew this was a complete fabrication, I think she was trying to make me understand that I am the one that is suppose to take care of her. She lives with me and every 2 weeks maybe one of my siblings will take her for a few hours and she gets very nervous when I am not around. Anyway I agree that you should just let them live their lives in whatever little world they want, as long as they are safe.
My mother is 96 years old. She still remembers her social security number. Sometimes she knows the day; sometimes not. I keep a calendar in her room. She reads the local paper and USA Today each day. Still, she doesn't always remember the day of the week and/or date. Whenever I write her a note I write down the day of the week. I'm thinking it's dementia.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support