Last week, I posted a little reminder that a person with dementia can be experiencing a different reality than the rest of us. I'd like to expand upon that a bit today.
Grandma was in the nursing home in the two years or so before her death. One day while living there, Grandma started accusing Mom of stealing her clothes. Grandma was dressed and Mom could show her the clothes she had there in her room. Grandma didn't believe her.
Another time, Grandma accused Mom of stealing her jewelry, particularly her Thunderbird necklace that my Grandfather had given her in the 1930s. Mom assured her that the necklace was at home, safe. Grandma demanded that Mom put all of the jewelry in a bag and bring it to her. Mom did and a few days later, at her next visit, Grandma complained of the staff not disposing of her trash. Mom looked over to the corner of the room and recognized the bag with jewelry. Mom offered to dispose of it for Grandma and took it back home.
Both of these accusations are pretty common, particularly with Alzheimer's. When this is happening, the person honestly believes the accusations they're leveling.
Dementia can be caused by other conditions than just Alzheimer's. In a recent exchange with a new friend, I learned of a situation with her step-father who suffered a stroke which caused his dementia. I have her permission to share.
In his reality, he levels accusations that someone has injured him. He has claimed that he's been shot in the head, had his ribs broken and most recently accused his wife of breaking his arm. This most recent incident ended up having the police involved because the couple were checking into a hotel on their way home from a holiday visit when he started screaming. The police responded and the man continued to insist his wife had broken his arm.
Fortunately, he was wearing a shirt which said "Pardon me. I have dementia." His wife was not detained while medical attention was given to the man and it was quickly determined that his arm was not broken nor in any way injured. In his case, the family and his physicians have determined that his accusations correlate to injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident 50 years ago. He doesn't remember the accident any more due to his stroke but they believe his bones ache sometimes and that prompts him to believe that someone has injured him.
The dementia impacts the person's ability to process what they are experiencing. If your reality is determined by what you're experiencing or how you're interpreting what is happening, then yes, their reality can be quite a bit different from yours.