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My Mom Thinks She Can Walk


"My mother had a stroke in March and is in a nursing home in another state. We've been told she has reached a plateau in her physical improvement, and insurance has stopped her therapies.

When my mother falsely claims she has 'walked for hours' that day and says that 'it is a miracle' she has no paralysis after her stroke, what do we say? She has no use of her left arm or leg, and she cannot stand on her own. Do we agree with her or try to help her understand that she cannot walk? It is a bit depressing, but it seems better to agree with her if it makes her happy. We are all wondering as to how to approach this issue."


Having a parent tell you things that are simply not true is difficult to manage from a distance. It is also quite puzzling and upsetting to think your mother is lying to you.

There can be a variety of reasons for her comments.  Your mother may be someone that wants to paint a rosy picture of reality and has done so all her life.  She may be having short term memory problems and is not in touch with her present reality.  She may also be on medications that are affecting her ability to think clearly.

First, place a call to the nursing staff where your mother is staying.  Get as much information as you can about her status.  Ask the nurse how long your mother has been stating things that are not true.  The staff will know the history.  Find out what medications she is taking, when they were introduced, and any changes that have been made to them.   Find out what the nurses see her do.  All of the information you collect about her is helpful and useful.

It will be difficult for you to manage from a distance, but it will be worth the effort. Patients who get the best care often have family members advocating for them, getting consultations when necessary, and asking key questions.  So, my best advice is to jump in and ask questions.

In response to your mother’s comments, there is no need to bring her to reality. Other than hearing statements that are false, is there really any harm done?  It is difficult to know that your mother’s reality is distorted, but if her brain was damaged by the stroke, this may be how she processes the world now. Acknowledge with “How nice!” and move the subject to a more accurate topic.  Find out from professionals her true status and prognosis so that any opportunity to resolve her reality distortion can be addressed. And if it cannot be addressed, at least you have a clearer understanding of what is going on.