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Faking It

The Real RuthDear Diary,

Way in the back of select medical school texts, after the paragraph (no less than 5,000 pages) on dementia.. exists a very teeny-tiny section dedicated to those much like my MIL Ruth (Alzheimer’s) who posses the talent for faking it. These dementia clad, are so incredibly SUPREMELY gifted in the arena of the fake out that it can be virtually impossible to distinguish between them and their fully functioning cohorts. When Ruth decides to flip the “switch”— usually prior to meeting doctors, friends from the past or extended family. It can be extremely unnerving to the caregiver (me) who has done the pre-dementia prep. and now looks like a complete moron and pathological liar because loved one has failed to put out proper dementia behavior.

Supremely gifted and talented Dementia Peeps: How to diagnose the fakers, is a must read chapter.. that goes into great depth about being able to pick up the obvious subtle differences between, say— An attractive women showing up for her Happy Hands class with her nightie tucked fashionably into her stretch pants (who has impaired cognitive functioning) as opposed to the woman who shows up in the IDENTICAL outfit who is “all systems go”. With a series of possible scenarios this awesome page guides the doctors–to-be in ways to see what lies under the façade so that misdiagnosis does not occur.

When Ruth was getting ready to move into Happy Daze Assisted living-Floor ROAM after having lived with us..I knew that the facility would have a good clear read on where Ruth was in her dementia as they sat her down to ask a few questions.

Examiner: Ruth, can you tell us what season it is?

RUTH: Brrrrr. Does it feel cold in here? Did you bring your coat in?

Examiner: Why yes..would you like to borrow it? (handing her his down parka)

RUTH: No I’m fine. It’s Winter.

Ruth one. Examiner— goose egg. Next question please..

Examiner(Handing Ruth a 60 item lunch menu): Here Ruth. Take a gander at this and tell me what you would like to have for lunch. Take your time.

RUTH: What’s good?

Examiner: I can’t tell you Ruth. You have to order by yourself.

RUTH: (leans closer to examiner under the auspice of warm friendly action, but in realty is sniffing his breath)  Tuna.

Examiner: Well done.

At this point in the exam I’m feeling a slight bit concerned. Come on sly fox. Screw up. I know you too well. It’s just a matter of time..

Examiner: How old are you Ruth?

RUTH: 92 years old.

Ah ha! She’s only 80..

Examiner: What year were you born?

RUTH: 1965.

Woo Hoo.. Woo Hoo.. Woo Hoo..

Examiner: Where do you live now?

RUTH: With her.(pointing to me)

That was TO FREAKIN’ EASY. Foul! Foul!

Examiner: Who is that Ruth?

RUTH: Oh come.. on. That’s ADRIENNE. We’ve known her for years. She’s married to my son..

Yeah Ruth. Which ONE did I marry. Speak up.. we can’t hear you..

RUTH: my son..

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. Booh-Ya.

RUTH: ahhhh.. I’m feeling a bit parched. Do you think I may have a sip of water?

I always go to great lengths to “prepare” all Ruth’s guests prior to their arrival for their “Ruth Date” on what they may encounter during their thirty to forty-five minute chat with my MIL. It’s so comforting to have the visitor in the course of my pre-chat tell me “Of course Ruth will remember me. How can she not?” Yes. I’m sure she will. Positive in fact..
I’ll tell you how she CAN NOT!! She has DEMENTIA people. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

It’s not my problem if they blow off everything I tell them in favor of clinging to their ignorant beliefs. I try to prepare them for changes they may observe in Ruth thus avoiding potential shrieks of hysteria—

“OMG Ruth! What has SHE done to you?” or “Ruth..are you feeling better? Do you still have that.. what-do-ya call it?” Or my personal fav “We had asked Adrienne if we could take you to a party but she told us no.” Shocking. The. Nerve. To invoke my name in conjunction with the word PARTY is unforgivable especially if used in a way that even remotely suggests that I have interfered with party attendance. Ruth does not forgive easily if a leak occurs and Ruth catches wind of an affair to which she had been invited that I had declined on her behalf. I only do it because the last function the loud speakers were blasting the Cha Cha Slide and Ruth got soooo confused about the direction she was supposed to go..

Slide to the left.. Now, slide to the right..She was bumping into kids, bumping into walls.. it was a real travesty.
All that instruction wacked her out for a full week.

Much behind the scenes prep work goes on with granny BEFORE her “big reveal” to her friends and distant cousins (who saw her last in 1803).. There are names to be learned, factoids to memorize, and wardrobe malfunctions to be conquered..
“No. you’re not wearing that sheer blouse over a tank. It does NOTHING for you and it looks cheap..all that boobage falling all over the place. I don’t remember buying it for you Ruth..what were we thinking to put it with? Oh..yeah..”

Down we go.. to the “Free Tea and Cookies” area. Act one. Scene one.

L-I-GH-T-S    C-A-M-E-R-A   A-C-T-ION

Ruth enters with huge grin on her face. Waltzes stage cousin Doris and exclaims, “Doris, you look fantastic. You haven’t changed a bit since the last time I saw you 5,000 years ago at Hortence’s party. Are you still selling Real Estate in..

At this point Doris has glanced up and is smirking at me with a “In your face. I T-O-L-D you so” look. My girl Ruth is looking like SUCH a star. There they are..back and forth. Doris pitching and Ruth smacking it out of the park. Yeah. It’s all good. All. Good. Then Ruth has to go to the bathroom. Up I jump to escort her through the routine and Doris needs to hammer in the last nail, “Ruth remember Dick?” “Oh sure I do”, answers Ruth as she launches into a 15 minute detailed synopsis of her relationship with DICK and Tom and yes..even Harry too. Doris starts to leave on this parting note..pulling me aside she whispers (spitting on my face), “Ruth was just as with-it as ever. That’s what Bertie had told me she’d be like. She said Ruth does just fine and we should ask her if she wants to go to Kitty’s 82nd Birthday luncheon. We’re only having a small group of thirty-five girls. What do you think?”


Ultimately after visits with fore mentioned “forgetful one” I will be faced with the very pointed comment from the departed visitor upon post phone wrap up that goes something like this:

“She doesn’t look like she has Alzheimer’s. And she certainly doesn’t ACT like she has Alzheimer’s. Are you sure she has it?” No. You know what? You’re right. She doesn’t LOOK like she has Alzheimer’s because how do people with Alzheimer’s look? Yes. I just get a cheap thrill out of peeping through her bathroom stall shouting instructions because I have nothing better to do. Plus, I haven’t the heart to tell you this..but, the minute we left you..Ruth wanted to know who you were, because she had never SEEN you before in her life and for the record..has “no idea” who Dick is. Then she went to her bedroom and passed out until dinner. That was hard work for Ruth. She’s just a truly remarkable and talented actress who can give you a show of a lifetime. My Sandwich Generation, just remember, they may try to fake it with everyone else but you will always know better. It will be our LITTLE secret.

Wink. Wink.


Copyright © 2009 My Sandwich Generation. All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized 15 years ago at 11:46 pm.


2 Replies

  1. I have been there!! I am blessed to have a MIL who has all her faculties! But we’ve had other relatives with dementia and I know what you’re talking about!! I love the say you write and I will be coming back for more.

  2. Adrienne Jun 15th 2009

    Thank you so much Stacy for the comment! I look forward to your return visit!
    All best!