The letter N in the list I created, The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s and Dementia is Never argue. The letter U is Use fiblets. This story does both.
When my mother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia at the age of 61, her neurologist said it would be best if she didn’t live alone or live in her two story home for fear of falls. We made the family decision to move her into an assisted living facility in her hometown.
She’d been living there a few months when I got a call (she was still able to use the phone).
“Um, there’s a man under my bed.”
I had just a split second to decide how I was going to react to this. I had just come back from visiting her and there wasn’t a man under her bed then. She was 61 years old, a good 20 years younger than the majority of the others who lived in the facility, so the probability of an 80 year old man sliding under her bed was…slim. Even if he was slim.
I chose N: Never argue with the person with dementia. It causes agitation for both of you and makes things harder. Hallucinations are common with Lewy Body Dementia. I went into her world.
“OK Mom, is he yelling at you?”
“No,” she said.
“Is he banging on the bed when you watch tv?”
“No,” she said again.
“Well,” and here’s where U comes in. Use fiblets. It’s in between a fib and a little white lie. Tell a little story and re-direct the person with the disease.
I reached into my bag of tricks (which as caregivers we often
don’t realize we carry around until the very moment we need it) and I validated her hallucination. I also made sure she knew she was safe. I used fiblets throughout Mom’s disease, but didn’t know what they were called until I worked for the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I went for it.
“Well Mom, he’s under your bed to make sure you go to lunch on time,” I explained. “So, go to lunch and when you come back he’ll be under Mary’s bed to make sure she goes to lunch on time. He’s the ‘Under the bed go to lunch guy’! He works there!”
I held my breath.
“Oh,” she said. “OK.”
And knock on wood, I never heard about the man under the bed again.
Fiblets don’t work all the time, but when they do, it’s an opportunity to reassure, to go into their world and reduce agitation.
People with dementia have their own reality. They no longer have the ability of coming into yours, so you need to go into theirs.
It’s a journey, and with skills and tips, it can be a little less painful.
I send strength to all of you going through this. I get it. Mom’s been gone a year and a half. I miss her every day.