Senior Health

Is it Okay for Caregivers to Tell Little White Lies to an Alzheimer's Patient?

Is it Okay for Caregivers to Tell Little White Lies to an Alzheimer's Patient?

Alzheimer’s or dementia causes aging brains to lose the ability to process information. Medical experts agree that it is sometimes necessary to step into your loved one’s reality rather than trying to correct them. You may feel like you are lying to them, but in the case of someone with Alzheimer’s, honesty is not always the best policy.

Experts agree you shouldn’t feel like a dishonest person when telling a little white lie to an Alzheimer’s patient. It may actually be in their best interests.

Keep in mind: The truth can be too cruel

For Alzheimer's patients, sticking to the truth may cause your loved one anxiety, distress, and pain. And, with short-term memory problems, they won’t remember this conversation in most cases. If you insist on the truth each time, you will be guilty of causing them to experience fear and anxiety on multiple occasions.

One sweet older woman continually called for her mother. The first time she was told that her mother had died 40 years ago. First, the patient didn't believe it and became angry and agitated. She called her caretaker a liar and threw her food on the ground. The second time, she became very sad and started to cry uncontrollably. What would have been better in this situation?

Medical professionals suggested the next time the patient called for her mother, she should be told her mother was on a trip. The white lie seemed to make the situation better, and she was able to imagine her mother going on a cruise and having a great time.  

Step into your loved one’s reality and agree with whatever they say. You can also tell harmless fibs. Therapeutic fibbing means saying things that are not true to avoid causing distress.  It will help someone whose mind is in the past  feel safe and happy.