What Do Dementia Experts Say About Therapeutic Lying

Many family caregivers with elderly parents who have dementia are forced to examine their feelings about therapeutic lying. This is the practice of going along with a demented person’s version of reality, presumably for their own good during elderly care. Therapeutic lying is a controversial topic with family caregivers and in caregiving facilities because it forces people to talk about elder respect and dignity as well as what is best for the seniors.


Elder Care in Manassas City VA: Therapeutic Lying

Elder Care in Manassas City VA: Therapeutic Lying


There are gaps…

A person with dementia has gaps in their cognition and memory that they try to fill up as much as possible. The problem is that the elderly person can be completely convinced of some version of reality but don’t have the reasoning skills to see why it is not correct. That’s why logic, reasoning and even actual evidence simply cannot dissuade them from their belief.

When someone with dementia is confronted, they can become agitated and confused, causing even more trauma. They may actually understand what they are being told, such as the death of a loved one, but it would be as if for the first time even though they’ve heard and forgotten a dozen times already. Sometimes their desire to fulfill their goal, like getting to work or going home, can be dangerous for them because they try to walk or drive away and harm themselves or others. Experts agree that seniors with dementia should not be confronted, challenged or argued with in this way.


What techniques can you use?

Because therapeutic lying has the potential to demean elderly people with dementia or cause family caregivers to use deception to manipulate behavior during elderly care, experts recommend certain techniques in dealing with an elderly relative who has dementia. Instead of telling lies to coerce the senior to do something, family caregivers should instead validate what the senior is saying and affirm their feelings. Then, they should redirect their attention to another activity and do what they can to help them feel safe and comfortable.


For example, if an elderly person wants to see his dad, who passed away 40 years ago, a true lie would be to tell them that their father has gone to the store and will be back in a minute. When following the expert’s method, a family caregiver would start conversing with the elderly person and asking questions about the parent. The caregiver could give vague statements about the father such as saying they are away now or that they are somewhere safe. Then the caregiver would suggest having dinner and watching a movie while they “wait.”

This technique doesn’t deal in outright lies and doesn’t attempt to minimize the senior’s thoughts and feelings. Instead, it makes them feel heard and reduces their stress levels by speaking truths (asking questions), staying vague (they are gone now) and redirecting (distracting with dinner and a show).

Family caregivers need to determine how they will approach therapeutic lying with an elderly relative with dementia. Ultimately, what is best for both parties is the right course of action.


If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring elder care in Manassas City, VA, please contact the caring staff at LivinRite Home Care.
Call Us Today at (703) 634-9991.
Serving Northern Virginia, The Valley, and Surrounding Communities.



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