Mar 22, 2018

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.

Alzheimer's Reading Room Dementia care
by Bob DeMarco
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.

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What happens - in this situation - 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 (usually a family member, a caller, or even the doctor).

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 acts like everything is wonderful.
They start acting like what might be called - "a normal person".

Learn More - How to talk and communicate with dementia patients

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 outsider 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 most 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.

Need Help? Search Our Award Winning Knowledge Base for Answers to your Questions, and Solutions to your Problems

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.

Related Articles

3 Ways to Redirect a Dementia Patient and Embrace Reality

You Cannot Leave a Person Living with Alzheimer's Alone

6 Reasons Why You Might Have to Put Someone with Dementia in a Memory Care Facility or Nursing Home

Care of Dementia Patients

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.

You are reading original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Comments from the Alzheimer's Reading Room on Facebook

Dementia-The Long Slide into Oblivion
Oh My Gosh! This is so TRUE! Mom would speak gibberish all day but the minute someone got on the phone with her, she enunciated and spoke in full sentences that seemed to make sense to the person on the other end. Then that person would say, "she sounds all right to me! i think you are exaggerating her condition!"
i used to become so aggravated at these remarks and always say, "well if you feel that way, come over here and take care of her for a day--just one day!" Of course no one ever did it (with the exception of her lifelong friend, Sue). I never understood this at all. But it was one of the most aggravating and frustrating portion of the disease for us!

Elaine Jeffries Turley
My mother could talk on the phone to other family and friends and they all thought I was lying about her condition. It took them coming to visit to see exactly how bad the dementia was.

Joyce Myers Kohl
Omg so glad I have read all this I am experiencing this with my husband, I am at my wits end and this has helped me understand. I will try some of what people have shared !

Melissa Bradshaw McConnell
Wow! This is exactly what happens!

Dian Masingill
This is so true!

Mike Hardin
My wife was very good at making you think all was ok.

Karen Fiddler Hellman
This happens to me all the time!

Pauline Rundle Little Kalenik
Omg everyday !!

Jody Crowe Stauffer
This is very important reading for caregivers! I lived this. Many others do as well. Please read and share!
Thanks Bob for writing this.

"Your heartfelt sharing of your personal insights garnered as the sole caregiver of your mother Dotty has become a body of information and inspiration that every caregiver should embrace".
Your realization that it was you that must change to be a successful caregiver is paramount among them. The useful way you've organized the website's information is remarkable, and the search tool makes it even more useful".
Jay Smith

"As a professional serving the Alzheimer's Care community, it is imperative to have resources at my fingertips. The ARR gives me that and more. It touches every facet and touchstone of care. From the latest research to the most sensitive care issues".
P.K. Beville, Second Wind Dreams

"Alzheimer’s Reading Room is an invaluable resource for caregivers looking to gain advice from an expert caregiver."
Chirag Patel, MediciGroup Inc. (a BioClinica Company)