Caring for someone with Dementia

Is It Okay to Lie to Someone with Dementia?

At an early age, we learn the tale of George Washington’s mishap with the cherry tree and his bold admittance to his parents, “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree!” Truthfulness is integrated within our character, and even telling a little white lie can wrack us with guilt. But could it sometimes be advantageous to fib when chatting with a family member with dementia?

As stated by the Alzheimer’s Association, “loving deception” entails allowing someone with dementia to maintain uncorrected misconceptions in order to reduce anxiety and agitation. For instance, say your father with Alzheimer’s frequently asks for his parents. The fact is, his parents both passed on many years ago; but keeping him from re-experiencing the raw sadness of learning this truth again and again provides a bit of comfort. A suitable response might be, “They are not here right now, but they’re out together enjoying the day.”

Martin Schreiber, author of “My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver”, teaches that there’s no benefit to correcting persons with dementia. He states, “This is all about the significance of joining the world of the individual with Alzheimer’s.

However, it’s important to confine the white lies to instances when the senior would be upset and gain no benefit from being told the simple truth, particularly if questions regarding the situation are repeatedly being asked. There is certainly a time and place for truthfulness in Alzheimer’s disease, such as when a family member has just died, and the person deserves the chance to sort out initial grief.

These further tactics will help restore calm, in lieu of lying:

Shift topics to something more fun or soothing.

Try to discern the emotion being expressed and help manage that.

Try listening to the person with empathy and acknowledge the feelings being experienced.

With an incredible number of Americans currently coping with Alzheimer’s disease – as many as 5.5 million estimated in 2017 by the Alzheimer’s Association, and a full 32 percent of those ages 85 and older – it’s very important to all of us to understand ways to effectively talk to those impacted by the disease while we anxiously await a remedy. 

For more communication recommendations and strategies to apply with your family member with Alzheimer’s disease, contact the dementia care professionals at Comprehensive Home Care. We’re also on hand to offer professional, specialized in-home care for persons with Alzheimer’s, in addition to education for families to better manage the disease. Call us at 704-333-5214 to speak with one of our Alzheimer’s care Charlotte experts or contact us online.