Individuals with Alzheimer's disease often invent or fabricate memories. These can be fragments of actual memories and stories of her past.
If your mother watches television shows regularly, be observant of the particular programming she is viewing. Some dramas, for example, contain negative story lines, and she may become influenced by a particular scene or even overhear a particular dialogue that sparks a memory from the past. So, subconsciously she adopts that story or event and meshes it with a memory in her childhood and, thus, the false memories are born.
In the early stage of the disease, an individual could possibly be convinced that the memory is untrue. However, as the disease progresses, it is not a good practice to challenge the stories the individuals recalls and tells.
Keep in mind that whatever story, or version of a story, your mom is verbalizing that it is important to be sensitive and validate and acknowledge the story. These stories are absolutely real to her, so recognizing these memories will give her a sense of self-confidence and help her feel more secure.
You may even want to "work through" a memory she is having and solve that particular fictitious problem. If her stories, or recall of particular memories, are positive and happy, just step into her world, be attentive and go with whatever she is telling you. For those times when a particularly violent television show might have triggered more disturbing memories, again, acknowledge these memories and help her feel safe and secure, keeping in mind that your mom cannot distinguish reality from fiction on TV.
Human memory and recall are vastly complicated. Studies have shown that most of us indulge in false memories to some degree. Our memories change over time and whenever we recall these memories, they are influenced by circumstances of the moment.
Your mom may be remembering experiences that have no correlation to her actual life. Her stories may often be impressive and entertaining to others. Thus, she is getting attention from her otherwise isolated world and this can make her happy and confident, so she continues to embellish the stories. Whatever the case, it is important to always reassure her and listen thoughtfully as she describes her past experiences, whether they are true or not.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.