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Advanced Dementia Care: Being Wrong, Even When You're Right

Mom tells you she needs a spoon, so you hand her a spoon and she says, “I asked for a spoon”. Let’s assume you already know at this point that she meant she needed a fork.  Your first reaction to this is probably a hint of frustration combined with the urge to correct her.

Don’t.  Because, in this moment, the fork isa spoon.  You are wrong and she is right.  The irritation you feel when she says it’s a spoon is probably similar to the way she feels when you call it a fork.

The two main reasons that she called it by the wrong name are:

  1. She is confused and honestly thinks it’s called a spoon

  2. She knows in her mind that it’s called a fork but cannot articulate what she means to say

When someone with dementia does something like this, sometimes it’s best to just let it go and be wrong.  Arguing with them or correcting them can often make matters worse.  It can hurt their self-esteem, cause them to feel like they are less intelligent than they once were, and even break their trust in their caregiver. One way to handle the above situation would be to say “I’m sorry, Mom, I wasn’t thinking”, and hand her a fork. 

Sometimes, as caregivers, we just have to be wrong and accept our loved one’s for who they are now and the reality that they currently live in.  Their confidence in themselves and in you is far more important than being right.


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