Sep 3, 2017

Stories from the Past

Comments and outbursts from Alzheimer's patients are often laced with truth and fiction. Or, they may be factually accurate but chronologically scrambled.


People living with dementia often drift back in time and live in the past
By Elaine C Pereira
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Fact or Fiction in Someone with Dementia?

People living with dementia often drift back in time and live in the past. For several precious weeks, my mother who succumb from Alzheimer’s Disease, talked about her childhood and her mother, my Grandmother Lillian!



I was only six years old when my grandmother died. The three-hour drive that separated our respective homes did not afford me opportunities to really know her very well. I cherished the brief period when my mom recounted charming antidotes of Grandma as if the events were playing out in real time.

It was very bitter sweet learning about my Grandmother through the eyes of a child, my own mom.

Fact Blended with Fiction

Although definitely not current, many comments and outbursts have a semblance of truth laced with fiction. Or they may be factually accurate but chronologically scrambled.
“Your (deceased) dad’s in the parking lot. Please let him in.” 
“I have to wait here for Shirley (former co-worker). We’re supposed to work on this (project) together.” 
“There are groceries in the trunk. We have to bring them in.” (My mother standing near a car to the newspaper carrier at 4 am).
These remarks are just a sample of a virtually endless list that families and caregivers have heard from their loved ones with dementia. Most often they reflect genuine experiences from their past, albeit distorted.


There’s no ‘t’ in mozzarella!

“There’s no ‘t’ in mozzarella you idiot!” Vera blurted out, shaking her fist.

Vera’s daughter Camille snickered a little when staff told her about Vera’s rant. Where had this strange but accurate remark come from?

Vera was a high school graduate and had worked on/off at a local diner while raising three kids, Camille said. Vera wasn’t a teacher; didn’t have an advanced degree; no culinary training and as far as Camille could recall not a great speller.

Vera’s critique of a frequently, mispronounced word is harmless. Other mental excursions to places unknown leave families bewildered. And acting on neurologically flawed input can be injurious.


At the community presentations I do, families and caregivers share fascinating stories they’ve heard. It’s those that appear to have no factual basis at all that are most puzzling.

A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey through Dementia

Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease and as such hallucinations and delusions are not uncommon. Living in someone else’s past or one that appears to be completely fabricated is not uncommon either. Be tolerant when your loved one takes on the persona of a fictional character or event.


“I’ll be running gunshot in the (wild) west.” (Uncle to nephew circa 2016)

Elaine C Pereira donates from every copy of I Will Never Forget to help support Alzheimer’s research. "Help Me Help Others" Buy a Book!

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