My grandmother was 91 when she passed away, but we started losing pieces of her before we laid her to rest. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s which brought on her dementia. A beloved matriarch of an ever-expanding family, a teacher for many years, and a strong female role model to many… slowly forgetting the family that she raised, and the vast knowledge and experience that she enjoyed passing on to younger generations. It was both difficult and heartbreaking to watch her slowly lose the memories that she had spent a lifetime acquiring.
Living with and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia is very much like riding a roller coaster or walking through a haunted house. There are so many twists and turns that you will never know what to expect… and have little hope of being prepared. Many times, our best option is to take a deep breath and accept your present reality. Live in the “right here, right now”.
Sometimes, this leads to caregivers lying to their patients or loved ones in order to avoid hurting them. While many of us struggle with the idea of lying being the kinder option, with some dementia patients it is. Facing the truth of their diagnosis or reminding them of their disabilities can cause more emotional distress and harm, as opposed to just living in their present reality. Therapeutic Fibbing can save a lot of heartache, frustration and stress for both the caregiver and the individual being cared for.
My grandmother was a wanderer. She never had a license, so she was used to walking wherever she needed to go. On a very cold night in the middle of February, my cousin came home from a late work shift and saw my grandmother walking down the middle of the road only wearing her nightgown and slippers. When he stopped and tried to get her in to his car, she steadfastly refused because she had no idea who he was.
The harder he tried to explain who he was and that he needed to take her home, the more upset and belligerent my grandmother became. At one point, she started screaming out for help, convinced my cousin was now a kidnapper. My aunt finally arrived and was able to diffuse the situation. The first thing my aunt asked was “Where are you going?”. My grandmother, in tears at this point, replied that she was trying to get to the market in order to buy food for the day. My aunt told her that she would make sure she made it safely to the market and would even help her shop… and just like that, my grandmother got into the car and my aunt took her home.
Whatever version of reality that their brain is experiencing – and it will change regularly – find a way to live their truth and keep them safe. Let your elderly mom believe that school has let out and her kids are on their way home. Help her make some snacks. Agree with your dad when he says that the weather is perfect for a fishing trip in the middle of November. Tell him you just need the right gear and take him to a sporting goods store to distract him. Instead of reminding them that their minds are failing them, live in their truth for that moment. Quite often the individual will move on to the next subject or activity without any undue stress.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia already take away so much from an individual… memories that were once cherished are now lost. You can maintain your loved one’s dignity by just accepting their reality of right here, right now. If right here and right now they are safe and happy, let them be.
Website: Daily Caring, Tips & Help for Caregivers – https://dailycaring.com/why-experts-recommend-lying-to-someone-with-dementia/
Website: Alzheimer’s Canada – https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/Living-with-dementia/Ways-to-communicate
Information Brochure: Meaningful Visits by Alzheimer’s Canada – https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/files/national/other/as-meaningful-visits.pdf