Nov 18, 2015

Dementia Patients Can Deceive Others to the Distress of Their Caregiver

One of the things that can be really hurtful to caregivers is the ability of their loved one living with dementia to change behavior like a chameleon changes colors.

The caregiver feels like no one can really understand how they feel | Alzheimer's Reading Room

The caregiver can "vent" over and over about how mean or how difficult their loved one is to deal with each day; then all of a sudden, the loved one changes into a nice person when an outsider comes into the picture.

Custom SearchWhat is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

What happens here is the caregiver feels violated. Violated because the patient makes the caregiver feel like a fool.

In other words, when the patient turns all of a sudden very nice to an outsider (or even a family member)

the caregiver feels like no one can really understand how they feel

and, what it is really like to take care of someone living with dementia on a daily basis.

We, the caregivers, often tell outsiders how difficult the person living with dementia can be - sometimes all day long. Then all of the sudden the person living with dementia starts to smile and act like everything is wonderful. They start acting like what might be called - "a normal person".

By the way this can go both ways. For example, the loved one can go to adult day services (adult day care) and thrive and have a wonderful time; but, as soon as you pick them up they start to complain that they don't "ever" want to go back.

This of course is stressful and hurtful to the caregiver who is trying as hard as they can to bring the highest quality of life to their loved one living with dementia.


Why is it that an Alzheimer's patient can act like an Alzheimer's patient while with the caregiver; and then, act so normal when an outside is introduced into the communication dynamic.

Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde?

It sure seems like it to most of us.


You might take a positive from a situation like this if you give it some thought.

If the dementia patient can all of a sudden become a nice person why not use this to your advantage!

Here are 2 examples of how I did it.


At night time my mother would start to get that dull, "I'm not here", look on her face. I immediately knew that this meant trouble. Trouble for me, stress, anxiety, and heartbreak.

In other words, our day was going to start going really bad.

What did I do?

I used my sister, Joanne, who I came to think of as a communication magician. I would get my sister to call my mom. There you go, outsider, a person living outside our home.

Joanne could talk to Dotty on the telephone and within minutes turn Dotty back into a "nice" person. Dotty would get all animated and get into a phone discussion with Joanne that can only be described by one word - normal.

When Dotty would get off the telephone she literally changed into Ms Hyde.

So one of my suggestions when a person living with dementia becomes difficult to deal with is to get someone to call them on the telephone.


When Joanne was not available I had to use a very different strategy. Even though it was night time (dark outside) I knew I had to get Dotty out of the house and completely change the dynamic. Change not only the physical place she was in; but also, the mental place she was in.

This was often accomplished by taking my mother for a ride in the car with a stop off at Mc Donald's for an ice cream cone (and coffee). This would completely change my mother's mood.

Please note, you can change the mood of an Alzheimer's patient.

Try reading this article and then the custom search I prepared for you to learn more about how to change the dynamic.


Try to remember that this deceiving change that dementia patients undergo is a normal symptom of Alzheimer's and related dementia.

It happens to all of us.

All I can say is that dementia patients are very good at deceiving outsiders, family, members, and friends. It come with the territory - sadly.

I know it hurts and makes you feel sad inside. But, I also learned that I could change this dynamic to my advantage.

If it helps try and remember this. An Alzheimer's patient might able to deceive outsiders; but, they can't deceive us. We know exactly how you feel. So take some comfort in the simple fact that we understand; and when necessary, we have your back.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

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