For the month of April, I'm covering a series of topics on unpopular and controversial opinions in dementia Caregiving. This series is not meant to change anybody's mind on anything. It is meant to open up discussion and have conversation and to think about dementia caregiving in different ways. This series can be helpful no matter what type of dementia your loved one has (i.e., Alzheimer's disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Frototemporal dementia, Vascular dementia, Parinkinsons disease dementia, etc.).
I'm hoping here for the month of April, we can all keep an open mind and hear each other's viewpoints and opinions, and you can feel free to share all of them in the comments below because we have care blazers from all different backgrounds, from all different parts of the world, from all different types of caregiving situations, and I want this to truly be a channel that is helping.
I believe we all don't have to believe the same thing in order to be amazing Careblazers. In today's post, I'll be talking about lying to someone with dementia.
We have people who believe lying is okay.
We have people who believe it is not okay.
Many people who don't believe it's okay, have strong religious beliefs or were taught growing up that good, kind human beings should not lie.
Here is a thought process on lying to someone with dementia to consider.
When we think about lying in the traditional sense, we think about lying to somebody in order to deceive them so that we can get something in our interest at the detriment of the other person, regardless of what it does to that other person.
In the traditional sense of lying, we're only concerned about ourselves, and we are trying to deceive that other person.
That is different than lying in dementia, which in fact, I don't even call lying anymore.
I call it Choosing kindness over truth.
Instead of trying to deceive the person with dementia we are actually trying to relieve some sort of distress or anxiety for them.
Rather than deceiving a person in the pursuit of our own gain, we are trying to relieve the person with dementia from some sort of anxiety, for their best interest.
Isn't this still considered lying?
When we're dealing with dementia, many times the person is living in their own reality.
For example, let's say that they are having visual hallucinations and they see somebody standing in their home that is not there. When you tell somebody with dementia, nobody is there, yet they are having a visual hallucination and they see the person there, who's actually lying?
Are you lying? Because in their brain, they literally do see the person that's a visual hallucination. Their brain is producing that image. They are going to think you're lying.
Or, do you think they are lying because you don't see the person?
It gets complicated when you think about it like this.
Whenever we get trapped and wrapped up in in the idea that all "lying" is bad, you have to first understand the brain of somebody with dementia is often living in a different reality. They are not living in our reality. So what's true for them is not the same truth for you.
That means when you respond and say nobody is there, and you dismiss their concern, when their brain is actually showing them somebody is there, you've just made caregiving more difficult for yourself. You've just put more strain and tension on your relationship. You've just added a factor where that person with dementia could quite possibly start to be concerned or mistrustful of you because you don't see the person that's very clearly standing there.
It's important to try to figure out how to join the person with dementia's world. Sometimes that's going to look like lying to the majority of people who don't understand dementia, but in all reality is very much just joining their world and understanding the world as they see it.
I want to offer this concept of concept of kindness over truth when it comes to lying to someone with dementia.
You are not lying to deceive the person with dementia for some gain on your own.
You are lying to relieve some sort of distress or anxiety.
I would encourage you to try on this idea of kindness, over truth. Many times the actual truth is sometimes the most cruel thing we can do.
As an example, let's say the person with dementia doesn't remember that somebody in their life has passed away and they keep asking for this person who has already passed away because the person's memory is so bad they don't remember.
Every single time you remind them that the person has passed away, they grieve all over as if it is the first time they have heard it.
Do you think that is a loving and kind approach to do for somebody with dementia?
Or could you choose a kindness approach? Perhaps replying with "You know what? I'm not sure where they're at. I think we have a photo of them over here in the photo album. Let's look through together."
Then as you're looking through the photo album, you start a conversation and spark another memory. You ask about something in the picture. You don't have to actually tell them the full truth that the person is dead unless you want to send them off into their own grief spiral.
I think when most people struggle with the concept of lying, it's because they aren't viewing it through the lens of dementia.
The general population might consider this approach to still be lying, but I don't.
I think that when we we are growing up and everybody taught us that lying is bad, I don't think anybody was thinking about a person with dementia who is living in a different reality than us. And as I'm sure you've already experienced, trying to get the person with dementia to understand our reality, believe our reality, convince them of our reality, just makes them more upset, more in distress, more anxious, and likely makes your role as the caregiver much more difficult as well.
You can decide and do whatever you want to do. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no one right approach to caregiving except for a dignified approach, an approach that cares for the person with dementia, with dignity, and how the specifics look for each and every person is going to be different.
What is the most truthful response to the person with dementia?
What is the most kind response that can alleviate some distress for them?
You can choose whatever you wish, but I hope you'll consider the kindness over truth option from time to time.
Careblazer, I hope this helps you.