Communicating with Alzheimer’s: Is It OK to Bend the Truth?

dementia care Anchorage

Is it OK to bend the truth when communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease?

Very early on, we learn the tale of George Washington’s mishap 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 even telling a little white lie can wrack us with guilt. But could it actually be good to fib when chatting with someone you care about with Alzheimer’s? Providers of the top dementia care Anchorage families trust, Midnight Sun Home Care, shares the latest recommendations.

In accordance with the Alzheimer’s Association, “loving deception” entails allowing someone with dementia to maintain uncorrected misconceptions to be able to reduce anxiety and agitation. For example, let’s say your father with Alzheimer’s continuously asks for his parents. The fact is, his parents both passed away several 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 proper response may be, “They’re not here at the 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”, explains that there is little or no benefit to correcting persons with dementia. He reports, “This is about the significance of joining the world of the individual with Alzheimer’s.”

Having said that, it is important to confine the white lies to instances in which the senior would be upset and gain no benefit from being told the simple truth, especially when questions regarding the specific situation are repeatedly being asked. There is a time and place for truthfulness with dementia, such as for instance when a family member has just passed on, and the person deserves the chance to work through initial grief.

These further tactics can also help restore calm, in lieu of lying:

  • Change topics to something more fun or soothing.
  • Make an effort to discern the emotion being expressed and help manage that.
  • Focus on the individual with empathy and acknowledge the feelings being experienced.

With millions 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 necessary for all of us to master strategies to effectively talk to those impacted by the disease while we anxiously await a cure.

For further communication guidelines and methods to apply with your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, contact the dementia care Anchorage experts at Midnight Sun Home Care. We’re also available to offer highly trained, specialized in-home care for persons with Alzheimer’s, as well as education for families to better manage the disease. Call us at (907) 677-7890 for assistance.

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