There is nothing like a little confabulation to add joy to your life. Confabulation is when people make up stories to explain things. People with dementia are not lying. They believe what they are saying is true.
Living a Fairy Tale
About five years ago, I gave my mom a pair of Keds I bought and then decided were slightly too small for me. She loved them because they zipped up. Once she was living in the assisted care facility, I noticed that they were pretty much the only shoes I ever saw her in. So I decided it would be nice for her to have some variety.
I ordered her a similar pair in pink because my mother favors the purple-pink colors for her wardrobe. When I flew up to visit her for a few days in September, I brought them along and anticipated a welcomed reception on her part.
Not to be. She didn’t like the color. It was too “orangey” a pink. I hid my disappointment and told her I’d return them for the pale blue option. I reported my failure to my sister when I returned to her house at the end of the day.
My sister, God bless her, told me, “Oh, I wouldn’t take what Mom says too seriously. She changes from day to day. Why don’t you just leave them in her closet? At some point when her aides are dressing her, they will pick them out. She probably won’t even notice.”
The next day, after our outing and a long talk in the lobby afterwards, I walked Mom to her usual table in the dining room. Then I made several trips ferrying supplies, laundry, and miscellaneous facility mailings from my car up to her apartment. I also brought up the shoes and placed them in her closet.
And They Lived Happily Ever After (The Confabulation)
About three weeks later, I received an email from my sister telling me that she noticed Mom was wearing the pink shoes when she visited her over the weekend. My sister thought I would get a chuckle out of their conversation.
My sister told Mom, “Your shoes are so pretty. I love the color.”
Mom replied, “I think so, too, and I got them for free!”
My sister expected Mom to say that one of her aides had given her the shoes as a gift, but Mom had a much more elaborate story. It went like this: “There was this man walking around here. He asked if I wanted a pair of shoes. I asked if he was selling shoes. He said he had a pair of shoes that someone had bought but had left, so he was looking for someone who they might fit and asked if I would like to try them on. They fit, so he said I could keep them.”
I thought this was adorable. Mom is Cinderella, and the shoe fit!
Note: For a great article about confabulation, click here to read “Confabulation in Dementia: What Is It and How Should You Respond?” by Esther Heerema, MSW.
For another post from this blog about confabulation, click here to read “Creative Conversations.”