Caregivers and family members face hurdles every day when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s\dementia. It is essential for caregivers to meet the patient where they are and enter into their reality. If we enter into the patient’s world, ultimately, there will be less anxiety and stress. Confrontation will only cause more outbursts and disruption. We must consider the damage that telling the truth will do, versus telling a fib.
Therapeutic Fibbing is a technique often used when caring for patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. The purpose is to avoid further harm or upset them. It involves telling a loved one a little white lie in order to prevent anxiety, emotional damage or hurt feelings. As caregivers, we need to understand that it is acceptable to alter the truth to protect our patients and loved ones because they have little or no recognition of reality anymore.
Therapeutic fibbing is one of many helpful techniques that caregivers can utilize. Here’s how:
Situation: An Alzheimer’s patient wants to have dinner ready for her husband when he gets home from work. (Her husband passed away five years ago).
Solution: I would love to help you with dinner, Mom. What do you think Dad would like to have tonight? (Hint: Don’t mention the fact that he’s been gone for five years. Act as if he is still alive. Mom doesn’t need to go through the pain of learning that her husband has died if she believes he is still alive).
Situation: You’re introducing a caregiver to your parent who has Alzheimer’s disease. (Most patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia will not accept new caregivers easily. One way to introduce a caregiver to the home is to bring them in for a different reason).
Solution: Dad, this is John. He is from our church and thought it would be nice to play a game of cards with you. He is a good friend of Pastor Smith.
Situation: Mom or Dad says “I want to go home!”
Solution: Tell Mom\Dad that” they are painting the house today. We can go tomorrow. Let’s go put it on the calendar. Will you come help me with this project?” (Redirect)
Most of us were raised with the belief that lying is not a good thing. But when caring for someone with dementia, therapeutic fibbing is an act of love and kindness.
Debra Kostiw, owner of Home Helpers Rochester is a trainer for the Alzheimer’s Association. Debra teaches community trainings as well as teaching local Doctors, Nurses and Memory Care Units. If you would like to attend one of Debra’s seminars, contact Home Helpers at 585-598-4539.