Confabulation is a term not many people are familiar with. People often confuse it with ‘lying’ – which isn’t true because the person experiencing it is actually believing in the accuracy of these faulty memories.
You need to know about this term if one of your parents or patients is experiencing it. You may also want to know about it if you’re a paid companion for the elderly in the UK.
Not sure where to start?
Fret not! In this post, we will walk you through the concept of confabulation. This is what we plan to cover in today’s post:
- What is confabulation?
- Misconceptions about confabulation
- What causes it?
- Conditions associated with confabulation
- Treatment options
- Techniques to deal with confabulation
Because we have a huge list to cover, let’s dive straight in…
What is confabulation?
Confabulation is an umbrella term involving numerous memory disorders in which gaps in a person’s memory are filled with fabricated and distorted information.
A person who confabulates basically merges (read: confuse) their imaginations with real memories. For example, they may grieve over the death of someone who hasn’t died yet. Sometimes they draw details from movies or dramas or the conversations they had in the past.
Even people with no mental health issues or brain disorders can have faulty memories.
Misconceptions about confabulation
As discussed above, confabulation isn’t lying. Confabulators don’t even know they’re lying. Some people even called this phenomenon ‘honest lying.’
In fact, the brains of these people are filled with voids with distorted information and inaccurate memories.
If confabulation isn’t lying, then what is it? Is it a delusion?
No, it is not a delusion either. Sure, both concepts revolve around false beliefs. But confabulation is strictly limited to memory, which isn’t the case with delusion as it mainly involves psychological factors and is less anchored in the real world.
What causes it?
Confabulation is often an outcome of a brain injury or psychological or neurological disorders. Here are some of the most common conditions associated with confabulation.
Alzheimer’s disease: Elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s experience many symptoms, ranging from delusions to memory loss, language issues, and several other neurological and psychological disorders.
Brain injury: Sometimes fatal brain injuries causing damage to specific regions of the brain also cause memory-related issues, including confabulation.
Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is another common illness in the elderly that affects their ability to recognize or memorize things.
Wernicke-korsakoff syndrome: Severe thiamine deficiency may result in a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome in seniors.
Confabulation can be grouped into two types – provoked or spontaneous.
Provoked confabulation, as its name suggests, occurs in response to a question.
Spontaneous confabulation isn’t too common, and it occurs when a person tells a false story without any provocation.
Confabulation, as mentioned earlier, is often a result of an underlying brain condition. It is important to seek immediate medical assistance if you find one or more of these symptoms in your elderly.
- Memory loss
- False memory creation with no hidden intention of misrepresenting or misinterpreting information
- The story fabricated is drawn from the person’s memory
Confabulation isn’t easy to treat. The best way to deal with this condition is to determine the root cause/source of the issue.
Both psychotherapeutic and cognitive-behavioral treatments can be implemented. With these approaches, a person can become more aware of the discrepancies in their memory.
Besides that, there are several techniques you can use to encourage a senior to question what they do or do not remember.
Some other treatment options include:
- Reducing distractions
- Allowing more information processing time
- Reducing stress
- Overcoming deficiencies
- Using uncomplicated language
- Tracking whether or not they’re able to understand
Techniques to deal with confabulation – A caregiver’s guide
The biggest challenge for caregivers is to cope with a patient or parent who confabulates. But it doesn’t need to be that tough, right. These techniques will help you deal with your elderly more effectively.
Use validation therapy
Validation therapy is all about offering empathy and reassurance to the elderly. Stay calm and focused and try to acknowledge the emotion behind the distorted information or false memory.
Keep memory records
Creating memory books is another effective way to help the confabulated elderly. These people often lose track of their past. Memory books and photo albums help them keep track of people and events in their life.
Determining the underlying cause
In order to address the issue of confabulation, make sure you understand the underlying cause behind it. By filling the memory gaps and offering reassurance, you can get your elderly to gain relevance in the world.
Confabulation is challenging, but it is manageable. All you need to do is show some empathy and affection to the patient. We hope this post has cleared some of the questions you have in mind about this condition. For more questions and suggestions, you can always reach out using the comments section below.