As a caregiver, we are many times put in a tight spot, not knowing whether do we tell dementia patients the truth or not.
It can become very challenging.
This is especially when the individual with the illness asks “uncomfortable” questions that warrant distressing answers.
For instance, a person with dementia may insist that they want to speak to a relative or partner who is NO LONGER ALIVE.
In such a situation, telling the person the truth that they cannot spend time with a loved one because they are dead can be stressful for an individual with the illness.
Telling The Truth Is Not Always An Option (Don’t Lie)
This implies that telling the truth may not be the best option at all times.
This does not mean that you should tell a lie either.
There are other options available to help you handle such SENSITIVE situations such as:
Distracting the Person
One of the ways to deal with an uncomfortable conversation is to try and steer it in a different direction.
For example, if a person with dementia wants to meet their deceased husband or wife, you can ask questions like, “Your husband/wife? Tell me about them?”
The affected person may start talking about their loved one, conveying EMOTIONS, and forget that they wanted to spend time with them.
Carers can also introduce a fun activity that affected persons loves to take their minds off the current conversation.
Misrepresent the Truth
It can be possible to convey messages without lying or telling the truth.
For instance, if a person asks where their partner is, rather than saying that they are not alive, caregivers can say something like: “Don’t worry about your loved one because they are safe.”
At times, listening to the person and validating their feelings is better than offering a solution.
For example, if a person is agitated or angry about something, acknowledge that the feelings are real even though the object of their ire may not be.
Caregivers should learn to accept the realities of the person with the illness even when they differ from their own.
An individual with dementia should be left to stay in their world as long as they are safe and not in danger.
In a situation where telling the truth would be cruel to the person with the progressive illness, caregivers may have to resort to telling white lies.
Telling lies, in this case, is not done for malicious reasons, but it is NECESSARY to reassure a person and validate their feelings.
Note that dementia can prevent a person from properly processing and retaining information.
It means that always insisting on the truth particularly on emotional or trivial subjects can cause a person confusion, distress, and pain.
To avoid this, it is UNDERSTANDABLE if a caregiver chooses to twist the truth once in a while.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to tell dementia patients the truth, note that each case should be judged separately.
The decision you make should be ideal for a specific situation and time.
Ideally, the solution should consider the other person’s interest always making them feel COMFORTABLE and SAFE.