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This content is taken from the Purdue University & Purdue University Press's online course, Creating Moments of Joy for People with Alzheimer’s. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds So we discussed, figuring out what age they live in in their mind. Once you figure out what age they’re living in their mind, now you gotta figure out who are they worried about. Who do they look for? So often these people might be worried about where’s my mom? Where’s my mom? In their mind where would their mom be to be okay? In their generation, not in our generation. Cuz in our generation, our moms might be shopping, or our moms might be uptown, or whatever. But in their generation, where would their moms be? In the kitchen?

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds At church?

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds Doing the chores, hanging out the laundry. Even if you don’t know where they think their mom would be, you can simply say your mom will be right back. Your whole goal, how can you make them feel whoever they’re looking for or whatever they want is perfectly okay right now. So maybe their question 50 times a day is where’s my husband? Have you seen my husband?

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds Where in their mind do they believe their husband would be? At work, where else might their husband be?

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds Having a coffee uptown.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds And then they give you this look like, liar, crazy woman. Cuz in their mind, they’re thinking my husband didn’t drink coffee and you’re covering for him. So do you know this is the only disease, short term memory loss, you get to keep changing your answer every three minutes. Or even when they come around the corner. And they say where’s my husband, where’s my husband? And you know what you did before didn’t work, so change your answer.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds Chuck’s having a beer with Bob. Now here’s the deal, she’s gonna be angry that Chuck is drinking again. But if you give her a different answer, she won’t believe you. Because in her truth, Chuck’s drinking. Does that make sense? So even through she’s angry, now you can be girlfriends and talk about. I hope he doesn’t come home tonight. And you’d be girlfriends, you’d be on her team. People ask me, how do I know, when I give them an answer, how do I know what works? And I say, just look at the person’s face. [LAUGH] You can tell whether you cause more confusion or yeah, that’s right.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds In other words, you can tell by their reaction whether you gave them an answer that they believe. The other thing that people tend to do is say that this is lying. When you say their husband’s having a beer with Bob and their husband’s no longer living. And they’ll say you’re lying to them, their husband’s no longer living.

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 seconds I’ll ask you, would they say where’s my husband if they knew their husband was no longer living? Would they even ask you where he is? No, so this is their truth. They wouldn’t ask you if they didn’t believe their husband was alive. They wouldn’t say, where’s my mom, if they knew their mom was no longer living. The other thing I want to say to you. When you correct them and you say, your husband’s no longer living. Do they ever go, yeah, that’s right and then they never ask you that question again, cuz they get it? Do they change and get it? No. So then this is a disease, isn’t it? Yes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 seconds And this is a disease that has made these memories in their mind their truth. Can this person change? No, they’re doing the best they can with the abilities and the memories they have left. Who’s the only one that can change?

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 seconds We are.

Skip to 4 minutes and 25 seconds And when you figure out how you can make them feel like their husband’s perfectly okay, he’s at work,

Skip to 4 minutes and 33 seconds You just found a treasure cuz you left them with the feeling that everybody they love is okay right now. And that’s all we can give them is this feeling that everybody is okay, right now. And that I call living in their truths, the memories they have left are their truth. Who’s got to live in their truth? [SOUND] We do.

What does living their truth mean?

A person with Alzheimer’s cannot change their truth, no matter how many times you correct them.

Living their truth, on the other hand, provides opportunities to give them joy and make them feel safe.

How might you “live their truth” if they are looking for their mom? How can living in their truth provide benefit to both of you?

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This video is from the free online course:

Creating Moments of Joy for People with Alzheimer’s

Purdue University