Many dementia patients reach a point where they can't separate fact from fiction.

Charlie is reaching that point. If he sees something in a movie it isn't long before parts of that story are becoming a part of his history. The same goes for a book he may be reading. His favorite reading material consists of memoirs of fighter pilots.

We were attending a function with a group of neighbors recently when, as usual, someone asked Charlie about his years as an Air Force fighter pilot. I overheard him telling the group about a bombing expedition he had been on where they had to refuel in China. The truth is, Charlie was never involved in an actual bombing mission.

He was on active pilot duty only from 1956 through the Cold War. By the time he got to Vietnam he was on restricted duty because of an aircraft accident that had left him partially paralyzed. I realized that his story about China was probably something he had read about another pilot. He was not lying; his mind was playing tricks on him.

Another time, he told me that he had been on a gunboat traveling down the Mekong Delta, when the boat was strafed by gunfire. Since he was an airman, I am pretty sure this was another example of something he had read that had become part of his "history."

When these invented stories come out with friends or acquaintances, I try to let the listening party know that Charlie has some memory problems and to not take what he is saying at face value. One understanding gentleman just chuckled and said, "Well they are good stories, anyways."

Charlie gets confused about places he has lived, vacations we have taken, who was with him during certain events and how old he was when certain things occurred. I used to correct him when this happened. That only seemed to confuse him even more. I have since learned to just agree with him, unless others are listening, then I try to gently explain the situation as it really happened.

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It's the same thing when a person with dementia accuses someone of stealing from them or mistreating them. This can cause a great deal of family stress with no one knowing wherein lies the truth.

It's important for family members to realize that something they have been told by a loved one with some form of dementia may not be absolute truth. There may be some basis for the story or it may be a complete fabrication based on something the patient has read, heard or even dreamed about. Don't let the stories upset you and don't repeat them unless you are able to corroborate the facts from another source.