At an early age, we learn the tale of George Washington’s mishap with the cherry tree and the bold admittance to his parents, “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree!” Truthfulness is embedded in our character, and oftentimes telling a small white lie can wrack us with guilt. But could it sometimes be advantageous to fib when chatting with a loved one with Alzheimer’s?
In accordance with the Alzheimer’s Association, “loving deception” entails allowing someone with dementia to keep uncorrected misconceptions to be able to reduce anxiety and agitation. For instance, say your father with Alzheimer’s repeatedly asks for his parents. The truth is, his parents both passed on many years ago; but keeping him from re-experiencing the raw grief of learning this truth over and over again provides a bit of comfort. A suitable response may be, “They’re not here right this moment, but they’re out together enjoying the morning.”
Martin Schreiber, author of “My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver”, teaches that there is no benefit to correcting loved ones with dementia. He states, “This concerns the importance of joining the world of the person with Alzheimer’s.”
Having said that, it’s important to confine the white lies to situations where the senior would be upset and gain no benefit from being told the truth, particularly if questions about the situation are repeatedly being asked. There is a time and place for honesty in dementia, such as when someone you care about has just died, and the person deserves the chance to work through initial grief.
These further tactics will also help restore calm, in lieu of lying:
- Shift topics to something more fun or soothing.
- Attempt to discern the emotion being conveyed and help manage that.
- Listen to the individual 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 important for all of us to learn ways to effectively communicate with those impacted by Alzheimer’s as we anxiously await a cure.
For further communication guidelines and methods to apply with your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, contact the dementia home care experts at Atlanta Home Care Partners, Inc. We’re also available to offer highly trained, specialized in-home caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s, in addition to education for families to better manage the condition. Give us a call at 404-228-0103 for assistance and to learn more about our dementia home care in Atlanta.