Caregiver Corner by Pam Johnson
In the world of dementia, there is always a dilemma when it comes to telling lies vs being honest. Is it ever okay to tell a lie? Is honesty really the best policy when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia? These might seem to be easy questions but not if the one you love has vivid hallucinations or serious delusions.
Few people can truthfully say they have never lied to someone at some time. How honest are most, when asked, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or “How do I look with a mustache?” We use little white lies because it makes them feel better than if we were candid.
A fib is used for something unimportant. When a person with dementia has hallucinations and delusions, their reality is quite different than ours and the facts are blurred. The truth is often perceived as a lie and honesty is more likely to increase anger and frustration rather than be calming and reassuring.
Through the years, many different terms have been used to refer to a more compassionate type of communication dealing with untruths. Caregivers will often use therapeutic lies as an act of kindness not to be deceitful. In support groups, families have often shared with others that many benefits of learning how to speak “Fibberish”. This is term created by a caring wife to best describe a language of loving deceptions. Because if they see it, hear it, think it …then it is real. And, the facts as we know them do not work in a delusional world of fantasy.
We need to step back from our reality and address the situations with a different approach. One effective way to approach almost any hallucination is to ask ourselves, “What if it were so?” Then, respond appropriately.
When you are caring for a loved-one with a dementia, it truly doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. It is important that they feel, safe, satisfied and reassured.