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Do you lie to your loved one with Alzheimers or Dementia?

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:03pm 1 Comment

I want to know how you deal with questions from your loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Do you skirt around the issue? Do you give an honest answer? Do you change the subject? Or do you tell a bold face lie. This is a question I dealt with for a long time before I finally gave in to a simple and effective way to get threw it. I found out the hard way that caring for my mother and her dementia meant I had to lie.

I am an honest person. Not that I am patting myself on the back, but if you ask anyone who knows me they would say I can be to honest. I have friends that didn’t like me when they first met me because of it and then learned to love me for it. I have also met people who couldn’t take it.

And if I am being completely honest I have to admit that I can also be extremely emotional, viciously sarcastic, and frustratingly impatient.And as you all know I am not the best when it comes to spelling or grammar. Um… let’s just say the list goes on and on. But when it comes to lying… well…ok. I can do that too.

In the life of a Dementia caregiver, lies are a way of life.

It sucks to lie to my mother. I hate it. But what I hate more is the look on my mothers face when I tell her the truth about something that will give her nothing but pain for the few hours, minutes or seconds that she will remember it. Knowing that it does nothing but rip her already confused and scary thoughts into a million little pieces is not worth it. So yes I lie.

When I was a kid I was afraid to lie to my parents. But as a teenager it became a right of passage to tell a lie and get away with it. Not that I got away with it very often, but when I did there was a mixed since of power, pleasure and pain. Now a days, as the caregiver of a dementia parent, it’s just a necessary way to keep the peace.

Bottom line Lies are a necessary evil in my life as a caregiver.

When Judy says “where is Bob” (my father who passed away 4 years ago) I say I don’t know. Or he’s not here right now. When she wants to know why all the doors and windows are locked I tell her it’s to keep the bad people out. When I have to go out to run an errand I ask my mother to hang out and keep an eye on the kids even though the kids are the ones watching her. These are the little white lies that keep everyone involved, including Judy, happy safe and at peace.

I did not always lie to my mother. When Judy was first diagnosed and I was so sure I could take care of my mother all by myself. I would explain things over and over till my head was going to explode. I was afraid every day of the looming questions that my mother would always ask. The first, second and probably 10 th time my mother asks where my father was I told her the truth. That conversation was the worst thing I have ever had to have. However I did it over and over and over again.

So in my opinion if changing the subject or validation or redirection or humor or anything else you can think of just doesn’t work and a lie does, then I, without effort or heartache, say yes, tell the lie.

Comments (1)
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Hey there! My dad has Alzheimer's too, I understand a lot about what you are going through.  I think it's ok to lie.  I don't even feel like it's considered a lie.  It's like they are little children again and sometimes little children aren't ready to hear certain truths because they may be frieghtened and so forth.  So, we are actually doing it to protect them.  I think your mom would understand and I know when the day comes that she is looking down on you, she will be very proud of you for all you have done for her. 

 Good luck!


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