Compassionate Deception- Am I lying to my loved one with Dementia?

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This is a topic that comes up frequently when I am speaking with caregivers and family members. “Am I lying to my loved one when I tell them something I know is false but it’s for their good?”.

Compassionate deception is often necessary to calm or re-direct a loved one and it’s commonly used with those who have Dementia or Alzheimers. It can be therapeutic for both caregiver and the one being cared for. It can feel unnatural for a caregiver who may be using this technique for the benefit of a loved one who raised them to never lie. After all don’t we teach our children that it is never ok to lie?

Here is a scenario I have seen where this method is perfectly appropriate to use; an elderly mother, who is cared for by her daughter, wakes up most mornings and is looking for her husband who is deceased. She becomes agitated when she cannot find him at home and repeatedly asks where he is believing that he is running late for work or has missed breakfast.

Instead of the daughter reminding her mother (which may be newly informing her) that her husband has passed away, an alternative would be to enter the reality of the individual as a use of compassion. A response may be, “Dad had to leave earlier today for a meeting or he is running errands, I came to have breakfast with you”. Then re-direct her mother to assist with setting the breakfast table for a quiet Mother/Daughter meal.

What makes this easier is understanding that today’s current reality for our loved one may be set 20 years in the past, today becomes yesterdays. Is it really lying if your father did leave early for meetings or ran early errands 20 years ago? I say no, its a therapeutic re-direction that benefits both loved one and caregiver.

There are many articles related to this topic that provide examples you may encounter with your loved one. As I find them I will share on our Facebook page as a resource to you.

Compassion is key to caregiving and it can come in some unusual forms along the care journey. YourHome Senior Care is here to help you. Please call us if you need support with in-home caregiving. We also want to be an educational resource for you as you strive to give your best everyday.

Diana Wilks, CNHA, FACHCA, CDP, CDSGF

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