Is it okay to “lie” to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Is it okay not to tell the whole truth?
When someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are experiencing a different version of reality. They don’t process information the same way anymore. They don’t understand current situations.
And that can bring about pain, confusion, anxiety, fear, or even anger. How dare you tell them something they can’t accept or simply don’t want to hear?
Turns out honesty might not always be the best policy. When your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it may be better to use a technique called therapeutic fibbing to spare undesired stress.
Therapeutic fibbing isn’t the same as telling white lies for malicious behavior. It isn’t about holding back information for your own gain or benefit. Instead, therapeutic fibbing is about proving your loved one with the information they can take given their new reality. If telling the truth is cruel, therapeutic fibbing can be the perfect solution to provide comfort and reassurance.
It means saying things to avoid further duress. It helps keep them safe and comforted, when the alternative can deeply upset them.
It’s like thanking someone for a gift, even when you don’t really like it. It’s the thought that counts. You love the fact that they were thinking of you; and tell a white lie to keep good relations with the one you love.
Need an example?
Your mom: I need to go to school. My students are waiting. I have a class to teach today.
You: You haven’t taught school in years. You haven’t taught since before I was born.
You: It is almost time for class to begin. But don’t worry, you have plenty of time for breakfast first. What would you like, cereal or toast?
One method clearly throws them into a tailspin, trying to figure out where they are. The other is conditioning to help them move away from current actions, to put their energy elsewhere.
Have you tried using therapeutic fibbing with your loved one?