At an early age, we learn the tale of George Washington’s misadventure with the cherry tree along with his bold admittance to his parents, “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree!” Truthfulness is integrated in our character, and oftentimes telling a tiny white lie can wrack us with guilt. But could it sometimes be good to fib when chatting with someone you care about with Alzheimer’s disease?
According to 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 reality is, his parents both passed on decades ago; but preventing him from re-experiencing the raw sadness of learning this truth repeatedly provides a measure of comfort. An appropriate response may be, “They are not here at this time, 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 reports, “This concerns the significance of joining the world of the person with Alzheimer’s.”
However, it’s important to confine the white lies to situations where the senior would be upset and gain no benefit from being told the reality, especially when questions regarding the problem are repeatedly being asked. There is a time and place for honesty in Alzheimer’s disease, such as when a family member has just passed away, and the person deserves the opportunity to work through initial grief.
These additional tactics will help restore calm, instead of lying:
- Switch topics to something more fun or calming.
- Make an effort to discern the emotion being expressed and help manage that.
- Focus on the person with empathy and acknowledge the feelings being experienced.
With huge numbers of Americans currently living 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 is essential for all of us to acquire strategies to effectively talk to those impacted by the condition as we anxiously await a remedy.
For additional communication techniques and methods to implement with your family member with Alzheimer’s disease, contact the dementia care specialists at JFS Care. We’re also on hand to provide highly skilled, specialized in-home care for persons with Alzheimer’s, in addition to education for families to better manage the disease. Contact us at (855) 455-2273 for assistance and to learn more about home care in Los Angeles.