What is Confabulation? Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support

by / Tuesday, 23 September 2014 / Published in alzheimer's, caregiver, dementia, frequently asked questions, support

alzheimers and dementiaIf your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, the term confabulation might come up. It basically means that a person makes something up without being aware of doing so.

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes the mistakes seem so right that we’ll argue wrong being right in the face of overwhelming evidence. These errors are normal. Confabulation occurs when the errors are so blatant they can be considered abnormal.

  • Confabulations are usually based in memory, and can be false in the regard of time and place of where an event occurred, or contain grossly inaccurate details.
  • Confabulations aren’t intentional – the person with memory problems genuinely believes the confabulation to be true.
  • Patients often act upon their confabulations.
  • A person with confabulations will often cling to the false memory even when meeting the truth.

Differences Between a Confabulation and Delusion

A confabulation isn’t exactly the same thing as a delusion – another phenomenon often present in patients with Alzheimer’s. A person with delusions often thinks that someone steals from them, that there are intruders in the house, or that home isn’t really home.

The difference between the two isn’t crystal clear. A patient who confabulates might form a “memory” for an event that didn’t occur. For example, the patient might rearrange the furniture, forget that it happened, and make up a memory of a burglar moving everything. This confabulation is likely to fade with time. A person with delusions, on the other hand, can become convinced that a person robs them repeatedly, even if nothing is missing.

Another problem that sometimes surfaces in patients with dementia is “fantastic thinking”. This means a vividly experienced imagination. A person who tends to do that is aware that the false statements are imaginary, but will still stick to them.

What does this mean for caregivers?

  1. Be aware that not everything said might be true, and that untruths probably aren’t intentional.
  2. Accept false ideas about current reality as much as possible. Arguing or trying to prove your loved one wrong will lead nowhere, except to upsetting both of you.
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