Therapeutic Lying and Dementia Care, Part 2
Is It Okay to Lie?
Therapeutic lying may throw some people into a moral conundrum: Is it okay to lie to your loved one in order to alleviate their distress over a topic that may not even be true?
This is a good question. It must be said at the outset that we cannot answer what counts as moral or immoral here. Morality depends largely on the set of values you hold and your beliefs about the world. Since these values and beliefs can vary across cultures and societies, what may be moral for one person may be detestable to someone else. What we can do is provide some considerations about certain actions to take when interacting with a loved one with dementia.
Those afflicted with dementia may confuse events in the past with events now or that certain, often non-existent, characters are currently involved somehow in their life. It is difficult to navigate these situations because you may feel awkward and uncomfortable going along with certain stories. But even if the individual details of these stories are not real, your loved one’s experiences are. Although their experiences may not necessarily correspond with your lived reality, it is always important to listen attentively to them without interruption. Instead of focusing on incorrect details of their experience, acknowledge their emotional state and reassure them when necessary. Sometimes you may be able to respond tactfully to your loved one. Practicing effective communication during these confusing circumstances may help diffuse potential difficult situations.
If you would like to learn some strategies on how to handle situations like this, then please read ElderCare’s previous blog post for tips on how to facilitate communication between you and your loved one. Additionally, Alzheimers.net has their own blog about the dos and don’ts of communicating with someone who has dementia.
Lastly, sometimes the idea of lying, even if your goal is to make things better, makes people feel uncomfortable. This is especially the case if it conflicts with certain individual or religious values. If you find yourself in this situation, then you might consider speaking with a counselor of some sort. Or if you belong to a particular religious community, then try seeking the advice of a spiritual leader or counselor affiliated with your community. Counselors may be able to help you find ways to think through the dissonant feelings you might be experiencing. Perhaps there are ways to respond to certain situations without having to make anything up. Every situation offers its unique challenges and navigating them can feel uncertain, which is why seeking out advice is important.
If you want more information and advice, then please visit ElderCare at Home’s blog for more tips for caregivers or call us at 561-585-0400.