Want to keep learning?

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 When you have the inkling to correct somebody because you don’t like what they’re doing right now, maybe they’re wearing someone else’s sweater, maybe they’re getting into a closet they shouldn’t get into. Maybe they’re telling you the same story over and over again. I don’t know what it is but when you have the moment to go, you told me that ten times! Pause for just a second. Before you correct someone, pause. Let’s go with the example of you wanting to correct them because they wore that outfit yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. You’re so tired of this outfit that they want to wear, every single day of the week.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds And you wanna correct them, in the hopes that they’ll change.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds Wearing the same outfit seven days a week, does it cause you physical pain? Physically cause you pain, not annoy you. Lots of things annoy us, but when you say, does it physically cause me pain that they wanna wear the same outfit seven days a week, what’s your answer? Be honest, no. Them wearing the same outfit seven days a week, does it cause anyone else pain who lives with them? By the way, when you get older you lose your sense of smell. So even if that outfit smells, does it cause physical pain to the other people around them? No, the person, does it cause a person physical pain to wear that outfit seven days a week. Physically hurt them, no.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds So when you have the inkling to correct someone, ask yourself, what they’re doing right now does it hurt me? Does it hurt you, does it hurt anyone else? Does it hurt the person? If your answer is no to those three questions what do you think I want you to let them do? Wear the outfit. Let them sleep in someone else’s room. Let them wear someone else’s sweater. If no one’s physically getting hurt, let it go. Let it go. By the way do you know that they’re not even confused until you show up and correct them? They don’t even know they did anything wrong until you showed up.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds Do they remember they wore the outfit yesterday? No, why did they choose out that outfit? Because they like it and if they like it, how does it make them feel to wear it? Good, and if they feel good, who wins? Everybody. This lady was so mad at me, she was a daughter of someone who wore the same outfit every single day of the week. She goes, so what you’re telling me, is that I’m going to let my mom wear that nightgown from the 1980s with no underwear? And I said, I hope so. And she says, because what you’re telling me is, I’m tired of fighting with her! And I said, I hope so. You get to choose.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds Fight until you’re blue in the face to correct them? Who wins? No one, you get to choose. Let them be as they are right now in every moment if no one’s physically getting hurt. Who wins, everyone.

Stop Correcting Them

As a cognitive human being, your first instinct may be to correct out-of-line behavior, just as you might do with a child. The difference, though, is that while a child is forming memories that will shape future behaviors, a person with Alzheimer’s is losing those memories. In other words, your corrections will not have any lasting effect to curb future behavior but may cause frustration, fear, and unhappiness in the present.

When someone you care about with Alzheimer’s is wearing someone else’s clothes, how could you “not correct them”? What are the key questions to ask yourself before you correct someone?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Creating Moments of Joy for People with Alzheimer’s

Purdue University