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My elderly Mom, with dementia , has lately began to make these little confessions, they seem minor to me, especially in the world we live in. But, due to her innocence it is something she wants to tell me and try to rectify, not realizing the person's involved have passed. Also, lately she keeps saying, "I miss my husband."

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Hallucinations vs. Delusions in Alzheimer's from
.............quote It is important that Alzheimer's caregivers understand the
difference between a hallucination and a delusion. Each of these
symptoms can affect your loved one in different ways:

Delusions.Delusions are false beliefs caused by the deterioration of
cognitive processes in the brain of the Alzheimer's patient, and are
often influenced by misunderstandings or misinterpretations. Patients
might think they are being followed, or might accuse a family member
of stealing from them or plotting against them.

Hallucinations. These involve false perceptions, and are also caused
by changes in the brain due to Alzheimer's. Patients can literally
sense  see, hear, smell, taste, or feel  something that isn't
there. They might see and talk with old friends who aren't there, or
watch ships floating through the sky outside the window, or smell
foods they enjoyed as a child. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,end quote

Confabulations are a major annoyance  when listeners take
everything at face value, no matter how false their statements. The
danger is when banks, adult protective services, police, friends,
family, and other listeners take everything our loved ones say at
face value and react based on the statements. Know that confabulating
is distinct from lying because there is no intent to deceive. The
statements can be coherent, internally consistent, and reasonable.

Be aware there are similarities between confabulation and
delusions; e.g., both involve unintentional false statements. Realize
delusions are frequently observed in Alzheimers patients may include
beliefs about theft, the patients house not being his home, a
spouse, is an impostor, belief an intruder is in the house,
abandonment, spousal infidelity, and paranoia.
wikipedia

Confabulating is distinct from lying because first there
is no intent to deceive, second the person being unaware
that the information is blatantly false. Confabulating can
be coherent, internally consistent, and
reasonable...despite clearly contradicting evidence. Your
challenge: is what they say true?
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Oh, I forgot to address something that Black Hole and some others said. I definitely would not want to stand by anyone's side and listen to all of the hurtful things that had been done to me during that person's life! As a matter of fact, I wouldn't want to hear specifics of anything the person had done to anyone and was wanting forgiveness for. Instead of remembering the person I knew, I would never be able to forget the things the person had done! I would hope a minister or priest would be there.

One of my pet peeves along this line is, before the funeral is over, some people want to gossip with you (or anyone) about the deceased. Not only is it disrespectful to the family, you can't always believe things you hear and shouldn't repeat them, and you are proving you were not a true friend of the deceased. Why are you there?

I don't know where that came from tonight? Something I read must have triggered it. Anyway, I am glad I got it off my chest!
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HappyGal, you have really made me think about this one! When my dad was talking to my mom and me, saying he had not been as good a husband and father as he should have been, it wasn't anything close to the things you mentioned. So, it was with honesty that we said we wouldn't have been there if we didn't love him, which indirectly told him he was a good husband and father. If he had the kind of burdens on his heart that you described and I knew he was dying, I would be torn between feeling and acting as you indicate in your last paragraph and living with the guilt of withholding forgiveness for eternity to someone asking me for a direct or an indirect word of encouragement or feeling. I would be afraid it would end up hurting me more than him, because I would remember it all of my life; and, he would be dead and free of earthly feelings or thoughts. It would be very difficult and I am not sure what I would say if given a short amount of time to make that decision. As I said, you have given me something difficult to ponder. I can understand your feelings and reaction.
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Clearly they are trying to unload the guilty conscience. I can't bring myself totally to pat them on the back and say, "it's okay, dear. Beating your children up and cheating on your husband instead of dealing with your mental illness was OK." Can't do it!

All I can do is try to figure out how I can live with my own attitude from this and be responsible for my own behavior: a big enough job!!
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Mmm. A real confession has to have sorrow behind it, and a willingness to make amends - but as any 12 step program will tell you, IF and only if your doing so will not bring further harm to the other person or persons involved. Not to mention under these kinds of circumstances, it has to have actually happened rather than being just a guilty fantasy or a bad dream. When the judgement goes, as it can with certain types of dementia, the ability to make those distinctions as well as the normal "filter" that would stop someone from spilling the beans that ought not to be spilled. "Extra burdens" is a great term for it!

OTOH, some people take things to the grave that we might have been better off knowing...
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Roxy, we all are trying our best to deal with all the extra burdens our people are laying on us every day. I go through all kinds of variations: sometimes I am numb, apathetic, angry, exhausted, happy within myself despite everything and the junk doesn't get to me, days I decide I will ignore the insults, or I confront her gently with humor. No matter what, however, it is usually some kind of P.I.A!
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Moi, Roxy?
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"Learning things you wish you never knew about your family" during elder caregiving -- or after a death -- is truly deflating.

If an elder is in his or her right mind, it is inappropriate to use the adult child as a sin-eater. (For those of us who were handed that role in childhood.....UGH. The last damm thing we need is more gut-churning information and mental pictures that we can't erase.) If the elder has dementia, it's sad and frustating on a whole different plane.

The classic advice to stand by and take it in, give neutral "listening affiramations," etc is certainly better than debating or correcting. But it does not address the caregiver's deepening pit of despair. This true confession sh*t is deeply personal. Yet the "how to handle it" advice is the same as how to react when they fold and un-fold towels excessively.

This disconnect is what wears down caregivers in dog years. "Acknowledge and deflect" is great for the recipient. It doesn't do a damm thing for the caregiver, who is saddled with yet another ugly truth. For decades.
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My nor my mother's life was a rose bed. In fact there was a period of time that I could not tolerate her mental illness and it came to the point that for the survival of the sanity of the family she was put in a group home for 10 years. This was a Blessing to our Family. And my mother did well in this environment.

I guess each family is different and has their difficulties to deal with.
But, having the pain that you experienced as a child and the strong negative feelings you are expressing is not funny. You need deal through this now or live with it the rest of you life, or you are getting something out of it yourself.
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Juddabuddahboo - lol! "Yes mother, that really was the right decision to use me as a human shield when I was four years old - I'm sure the gun would have never really gone off".
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People do the whitewash thing out of guilt that they have no other way to deal with...some people do not know you can confess and be forgiven even if there was no excuse, and the pain of guilt can be unbearable. I don't know that there is an answer for it other than allowing it and realizing that they can't bear it, unless there is some way to convince them that they can be loved and forgiven even when the truth is known. Yes, they tell themselves they did not really hurt anybody, or that they were not really wrong, or it was the other person's fault.

Confession is not easy. In my church is a sacrament when you do it on an individual basis rather than the general ones we recite during Mass, and I cry almost every time I actually manage to make myself go.
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Hey GardenArtist: I wish my mother's past was a rosebed of right decisions but it sure wasn't. Because she was a Narcissist she only was able to see what her needs were and had no ability to see how she hurt her family. I sure could not condone her behaviors then or now. The best I do when she brings things up is just repeat what she says, like a shrink. "I can see why you were frustrated." and so on. Mirror listening. I must admit I feel the same pain I did as a child, when even now, she still is not interested in seeing how she effected me or anyone else in her past.
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Good Morning, I have to say, I have great admiration for you ladies who are doing this caring out of duty. WOW, you are awesome. This is very difficult even if you just like or care for someone. When I wrote my question, my Mom had confessed to stealing $5.00 and she wanted me to return it to the husband. (I think on my father's side) Also, stole 5 shirts and 2 pair of pajamas (have no idea how she managed that) Maybe a thrift store? (she did go to) I just thought these were end of life confessions or something. But, as I have read your post, I have felt anger and pain and yet still dedication to care for your parent. I do hope you will give yourself credit for the sacrifice you are giving.
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Staceyb- agreed. If my mother were making these confessions to me, I would probably need therapy afterwards!
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Calicaregiver, I hear you, but it is a little different, when it is your Dad telling you some of these outrageous tales, you wish he had never done, and now you can't get it out of your head, and it's very difficult not to judge, when you know the information hurt your own Mom, terribly! Dementia and delusions are one thing, but actual confessions are a whole other ball of wax. And on the other hand, when my husband asks his Dad, who does not yet have dementia, for information about the past, family info, for interest sake, like names dates, relationships, and ancestry type things, he can't remember anything, and doesn't even try, and he is the last link to any of this information. It's Sad, trying to find out Good things to remember him by.
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Well, if the person you are caring for is NOT religious, priests and ministers are not in the arena. My longtime employer did the same thing. But, her confessions were pretty unbelievable. It was very hard for me to not pass judgement. Some of the things she told me that she did in her life were pretty....well, really bad. I believe that she wanted to come to terms with these things in her life. She also wanted forgiveness even if she wasn't asking for it. Hind sight is 20/20, and the conscience is a powerful thing. I just listened more than anything g. It's not my job to pass judgement. That will come for all of us in time. Just because I was shocked or appalled at some of the things that she told me didn't give me the right to treat her any different. I'm not her, and I walk in my own shoes. Not hers. We all have our own inventory to take of ourselves. Listening to someone try to reckon with their past is perfectly ok in my opinion as long as you can remain passive, and try to focus on your main role of being an ear for them.
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So true, Eddie. When my mom first started the "re-inventions", every now and then I'd hear a hesitancy. But not anymore- now I'm completely positive she actually believes what she's saying - and it's not the dementia taking - she got this way a while before the dementia kicked in. Yep - clear conscience!
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Rainmom,

My mother has also rewritten her life's history. A woman whose idea of good parenting was terrorizing her children into submission has suddenly turned into their "mother, father, and best friend." Her 20-something husband is now her godson. I stopped challenging her when I realized that reinventing herself is the only way she can live with her conscience. She lies with such sincere expression that anyone who doesn't know her as well as I do will swear everything happened the way she's telling it. ... A legend in her own mind, lies told a hundred times have become true; and her reality.
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In summary, I think just listen to them go on and on in their delusion. If you can gain some insight or healing fine. If not, fine. We shall heal our own wounds in other ways, now as always.
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My mother cheated on my father (he was the cold fish) throughout their 30 years. She also was physically abusive, mentally unstable and my childhood was a mess. I left home because of her, but I was already 18. She then had a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide! I ended up saving her. Talk about a past...
So now I am the caring daughter (not without my own bag of resentment as can easily be read on this site where I vent) and from time to time my mother brings up things: including what a terrible thing I did...leaving home..!

I have decided to let her whitewash her own past and I let her yak yak. All she wants to do is try to validate herself anyway. She clearly has no interest in me, my past, my feelings, etc. It was ALWAYS about her. And now she is still making stupid, impulsive decisions, and unwilling to look herself in the moral mirror.

I've become numb and uncaring, really. It's about duty for me.
I can't challenge her, change her, or anything like that. She's just another old person trying to make sense of her life without really taking responsibility for any of her actions. I feel sorry for her but man, I've lost a great deal of respect for her.
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Thank each of you for your input, I sincerely appreciate it. I do listen to my Mom and reassure her that she is forgiven and all is okay. She has a picture on the wall of Jesus and she makes sure it is there every time she enters her room. IloveMom, I guess I relate mostly to your answer.

This may have been a good question for others to be able to vent some of their feelings and pain; and find that others have actually suffered the same experience. This site is more than we realize.
Again, I say Thanks.
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PhoenixDaughter - perhaps our mothers are related. When I was around six years old I was outside playing with a friend - we were playing on the grounds of a church about four houses away from my house. The janitor lured me in and abused me - he only let me go when my mom found out from my playmate where I had gone and she came after me, banging on the church doors. When she got me home she blamed me and attempted to spank me but I locked myself in the bathroom. That day and ever since she has told me it was my own fault for "being stupid enough" to go into the church. Mind you this was fifty years ago when "stranger danger" was not as commonly discussed as it is today. Anyhow - I know what you mean. Freezes a part of your heart, doesn't it?
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My mother typically whitewashes her life into the perfect marriage etc which was absolute garbage - she is was and always has been an ice cold fish and dad had affairs as a result, but he stayed with her supported her and us despite her constant nagging of him that everyone could see was a real issue, everyone except her of course.

Then out of the blue a few months back she was very agitated and you have to know mother and I have NEVER EVER spoken of this before or since nor will we. She told me she knew her cousin had abused me as a child. All water under the bridge she said.

Well it might have been to her but that was the final straw in any meaningful relationship that was ever going to be possible. I look after her now but that's all I do. I don't hate her but I really don't want to be her carer any more and if Social Services give me any more hoops to jump through or obstacles to traverse I might just walk away from it all.
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This happened to me once, and came as a complete surprise. I reassured, found ways to answer that went beyond the basic question and provided as much reinforcement as I could. I could tell it was an acceptable answer and the self questioning and introspection had been alleviated.

I would encourage your mother to believe if she raises the issue of facing difficult questions, that the situation was indeed a choice, that she made the right one decisions, and then find a way to reinforce her abilities as a mother. Make her feel good about herself. She's asking or telling you because she values YOUR opinion.
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Yes, my FIL told my husband that he had an affair when my husband was a toddler, which broke up the family for a period of time, my MIL moving to California from Seattle, to live with her Mother and the 3 small kids. My husband never knew that this was the reason, he understood it to be job related, abd he was only about 18 months old at the time, but now wishes he had never know the truth. The family eventually got back together, his Mom forgiving his Dad, I guess, but It does impact how you perceive them, and you even treat differently them from that point on. There was no reason he needed to tell him this, ancient history, and it has changed his feelings for his Dad because of it. Plus, this discussion happened several years ago, after his Mom had passed and long before his dementia started to kick in. It makes you wonder what else he might have done to hurt his Mom in the years before. Sad!
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My mother has done something akin to this but with a totally different spin. Mom has managed to whitewash her lifes history. Mom has convinced herself that she was a perfect daughter, sister, wife and mother. In all these relationships she has done some pretty awful things that now have a different history - it's more than saying it never happened - she has invented a history of completely different behavior. Sometimes it's hard to sit quietly and let her talk about being a person she never was, doing things that never happened as I was there - I know first hand how it really was. But I say nothing - I guess I figure this is something she needs to do to let go and pass in peace.
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Your mom may feel very comfortable with you, and if you are ok, then let her air out. If you or her feel uncomfortable, then talk with a professional. It's ok. My mom had conversations with me when she could talk...We talked, laughed, and let it go.. I think it may be ok to say you miss him too, and see if this helps. Friend's Mom has dementia and makes up stories, and laughs, and has conversations with people not in the room. He'll be back, he is parking the car. I ask her what car? We laugh some more.
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My dad had cancer and died from it's spreading to several places in his body. He never lost his ability to think clearly or to communicate, unless you count the last day of his life when they say his body was shutting down. The night before he was unable to talk, mom was in the kitchen and I was sitting by dad's bed. It seemed that all of a sudden he had a need to make things right or ask forgiveness...I am not sure how to express it. Anyway, I told him he should be saying some of what he was saying to my mom. So, with us on each side of his bed, holding his hands, he cried and said he hadn't been as good a husband as he should have been and the same substituting father. I remember saying that is he hadn't been good enough for mom and for me, we wouldn't have been sitting there with him, now would we? All three of us were crying and laughing. I do remember, though, that there was an urgency in what he wanted to tell us. I left to go home, so that was the last time I heard him speak It has always made me wonder, especially after reading some of the posts here, if people really do know when their time is near? I am sure this and the need to confess or make things right have been discussed many,many times here, but I still wonder...
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Confessions are best conducted with the priest of her choice.
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