How can I handle my mom's embarrassing false memory?


Typically I can "go with the flow" when it comes to Mom & her memories. I expect her to not remember many things & even when her "memories" turn fanciful, I try to just pick my battles.... But we've been struggling with this one for about a year. She is VERY ADAMANT about it & loves to tell people about it. Dad & I are concerned because of the absolute absurdity. I come from a long line of conservative Republicans & respect Mom's views. She was VERY interested in this most recent election & out of the blue one day announced that she has ALWAYS been a fan of Donald Trump. Ok, fair enough, he's had a long successful career. She goes on to say that she remembers growing up around him, his wife (not sure which one) and children. She remembers how gracious they were & she hung out with Mrs. Trump & the kids in the kitchen. HELP!!!! I've tried reasoning, explaining that not only is Mr. Trump younger than SHE IS, his first child was born when I (the baby of our family) was 12!!! She gets frustrated, I get frustrated & I just go nuts over this one. I don't try to correct the other several things like her telling me she's driven a standard all of her life (totally NEVER drove one!) and there's so many other inconsequential things that she thinks of, but I just consider it part of the package. Where there are gaps in memory, I'm sure the mind works to fill in. I also think some of it is just wanting to participate in conversation. I know this started as she was watching so much TV coverage & perhaps even had a vivid dream. I just can not figure this one out or know how to handle it. We've tried going along with it but asking her not to share this story with others..... Of course this was a WONDERFUL memory from her past & she's quite adamant about it. She just brought it up again today after an absolutely lovely Mom & Daughter day & I didn't handle it well. I feel like a heel. She feels downtrodden...... It's a mess!!! ANY help or insight would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

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I agree - don't fight her on this.

Dementia is a strange animal. It steals our memories and sometimes, as in your mom's case, replaces them with ones that don't belong in our heads. Arguing with her over this is only going to cause increased confusion and frustration - she *truly* believes she knew this family and is not going to be swayed by anything you say to convince her otherwise.

I'll tell you a little story here that might help explain how this works in other people.

My grandmother came to dementia early - in her 60s. By the time she was in her 70s, it was full-blown, complete with delusions of grandeur, wandering, dangerous personal hygiene habits (severe overuse of things like suppositories), and completely off-the-wall delusions that included her being a DEA agent, a CIA agent, and being in the employ of the President.
The one story that sticks with me about her dementia is about the burglars.
She insisted on this timeline every time she told the story - the only thing that changed was the ending:
- Someone was putting a ladder on the porch roof and breaking into the attic window. (Roof would have collapsed under their weight, and this was a 3-story house - no ladder long enough to reach that window - which by the way, was nailed shut - her doing.)
-This person was then exiting the attic through the attic door (deadbolted and had a 100+ lb. steamer trunk against it from the outside)
-They were coming down to the kitchen, getting meat out of the (padlocked) freezer, cooking & eating it.
- Then they washed the dishes they used and put them away - and she couldn't find her favorite skillet, because they hid it.

This was all to justify the fact that she couldn't find her skillet. (We found it later - in her bedroom, under her mattress, with multiple knives, forks, rolling pins....not sure how she ever slept on that bed.) The story would change from time to time to justify a new "lost" item. Or she would say they went out the front door and left it standing open, to justify that she forgot to close it the night before and left it open all night.

This is how dementia works - especially in severe cases. My grandmother couldn't remember where the skillet went, so she made up this elaborate story about someone breaking in and using it, and then hiding it. But she truly believed these stories, and if challenged on the truth of them, she would become agitated and angry and lash out at the person challenging her.

Just try to keep going with the flow with your Mom. Redirect to another conversation if you can, or just pull family members or guests aside to explain that this is just part of Mom's "new normal" with dementia. Let them know it's harmless, and to just let her ramble on and talk about whatever she wants - and just go with the flow. Doing otherwise will just frustrate everyone involved.
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Given the object of her affection I can understand how this gets under your skin. But that said - there is no point in arguing the subject. Best to just treat it as any of her other delusions.

My mom did this in a totally different direction. Mom white-washed her entire life. To hear her tell it - she was the perfect daughter, sister, mother and friend. Life with my father was a 62 year long honeymoon. At times she talked about these relationships with a hesitancy in her voice as if she was testing me to see how far fetched she could get. To my credit I can't recall ever challenging her - although I would leave from her apartment after an afternoon of fairytales with blood in my mouth from biting my toung.

Yes - some of it was a "fill in the blanks" game but I also believe she was telling herself what she needed to hear to put herself right with her karma, her 50 years of believing in reincarnation and with her maker.
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Why can't you go with the flow on this?

She has dementia, right?

Does it matter?

"What kind of flowers did they plant" and "What kind of car did they drive?" might be good neutral responses.

My mom can't talk anymore as a result of a stroke, so I'm not dealing with kind of frustration you are feeling about this. But I think it might be good to try to let it go. You're making both of you unhappy.
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Oh Barb, I totally hear you!!! This is a heartless disease process. And I know it's all a learning curve but so agonizing!
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Oh boy, I'd just let this roll! If you are embarassed she loves the Donald, just give the "wink wink nod nod" to whoever she talking to, and let her rip. The memory makes her happy.. so what? My father always insisted he lived in the house next to our vacay home.. we and the owner just left him go with it.. You could not change his mind. In her mind she knows someone important, and that makes her happy.
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You know, as I'm thinking about it & what is it about THIS issue in particular, I'm realizing...... Mom was always a very reasonable, rational lady. She was a teacher & dealt in facts. I guess it's been easy to let the little stuff go, but this WHOPPER is so over the top it's forced me to see that she's getting so much worse. I don't like to face that Mom isn't Mom anymore. I'm blessed that she's not worse off, she's basically pleasant & happy for the most part. I love that she embraces some new things with child-like wonder & enthusiasm. But she IS changing & more than any other issue, this one forces me to face our new reality.
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I remember that moment for me.

Mom and I were in Bed Bath and Beyond. She needed cortisone cream, which her doctor wanted her to use for some kind of itch. She always referred to the stuff as "anti itch cream".

So we go down the aisle and I pick out the generic version of the strength of stuff her doc recommended. My mom picks up a tube of Gold Bond Anti Itch Creme, which doesn't containe cortisone ..

I show mom what we're buying. She holds up her tube and say "but this one says "anti itch cream".

I was about to show her the ingredients and explain, but all of a sudden, I realized that my stringently "read the ingredients, pay attention to what the doctor says, worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering in the 1940s" mom was gone.

I said, the doctor said he wants you to have this one.

I went home and cried that night.
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Loved the stories shared here, my mom doesn't sound any more far fetched and fanciful. I used to get furious when mom claimed she had cancer, or neighbor was terrorist, had a laser on her--it was a street lamp with red bulb in which tree would blow back and forth across and from her living room indeed looked like a laser....Richmond was sending in troops to protect her house....she was dating her dr and he would take her away on weekends...finally, and it took me awhile....I accepted her stories as her reality and actually allowed myself to enjoy how fanciful she made them and how detailed. I would ask questions about her dr rondeveous or what uniforms Richmond troops were wearing and then have a good laugh recanting to my husband and friends.

I think I'll write a book about my leanings from this journey.

Anyway, just know u aren't alone. People who know u and your mom will not think anything of these stories and know mom has dementia. It's ok. It's the new reality and we must accept that as our parents age.
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I don't know why this is different than her claim to have driven a standard. It is not true, but so what? Why is this one so hard to go along with?
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Thanks so much for the responses. Dad & I do so much to preserve her dignity & I guess that's why it's the one that gets me. But as time has progressed, friends are adjusting to her "new normal" and I'm sure would understand. And you're right about trying to set her straight, it just gets all of us upset. She is 100% convinced of this "reality" regardless of presenting any actual facts. Guess I'll just bite my tongue on this one next time. This is all such a challenging journey & I'm so thankful for places like this that remind us we aren't alone in it all!!
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