Whose Truth Is It Anyway?

What can dementia teach us about alternative truths?

Dementia and alternative truths
The truth - it's so clear in my mind.
Photo by Alan Miles

Of all the people in our little dementia group, he was the hardest to reach. Spoke only when he was spoken to. Just a few words. Hanging on the edge of our conversations, straight-faced, eyes with just a flicker of interest.

But one day I’d helped him find the way down to the gents. And coming back, just him and me, he’d opened up.

– I used to love running. Ran for the Sale Harriers, I did. For years.

There was a little self-conscious smile at the memory he’d managed.

And now, today, I tried to get him talking again. Maybe because he was such a challenge. I wanted to get him involved.

– Remember you told me how you liked running? Well, I’ve just started again, the first time in years. I’m planning to do the Manchester 10K. Is that the sort of thing you used to do with Sale?

– They threw me out.

His wife jumped in.

– No they didn’t. It was the choir who threw you out, not the running club.

He turned back to me, shrugged shoulders and eyebrows, and I got half a smile again. A sheepish one.


Why are we all so keen to correct? ‘You’re wrong, I’m right. My truth is better than yours.’

But as facts merge with fiction for my own Alzheimers partner, I’m slowly learning to bite my tongue. If that’s her story, then I’m ready to stick with it. At least she has a story.

It’s a good lesson. If we could just quietly accept that others are entitled to alternative truths, different realities, then the world would be a kinder place.

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