“But I don’t want to lie to her.”

RACHAEL PODCAST COVER – Season 4

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“Well…I don’t want to lie to her. If I tell her she still has a house waiting for her, then that would be a lie. Even though she keeps asking about it, I don’t want to make up an answer! We sold that house a year ago!”

Honestly? I get it, I really do. We never want to lie to a person we care about.

However, what we’re doing in dementia caregiving is a completely different thing: we’re switching our mindset and we’re moving away from what is typically considered “lying.” We’re Embracing Their RealityTM.

That’s because the reality that he or she is living in isn’t OUR reality. You know this to be true if you’ve ever tried to convince someone living with dementia about a fact.

Does this sound familiar?
You: “Mom, this is where you LIVE now, remember?”
Her: “No! I don’t live here now—I was at my house just the other day!”

Everything you say? She doesn’t believe it.

That’s because that person doesn’t live in our reality any longer. Your mom is positive that she doesn’t live in this new place, and no one can tell her otherwise.

Picture this:

You’re at work, and you’re just about to leave after a long day. You’ve packed up, and you’re headed out. A coworker stops you. “Uh, honey, this is where you live,” she says. “You can’t leave.” You’re angry, annoyed, tired and confused. “No, I don’t, I’m going home,” you say. She pushes back, “No! Sit down! You live here!” It carries on like that for 30 minutes as she argues with you.

That would be ridiculously frustrating for you. Realize that this is what a person living with dementia goes through on a regular basis. Instead of correcting, EMBRACE Their Reality. (PS: We’re not “fibbing,” we’re not “therapeutic lying,” yada, yada—we’re really doing what’s true for them!)

Here’s a great example from my days as a Dementia Care Director. I met a husband of a resident who was having issues leaving the community after visiting his wife. “She gets really upset,” he said. The issue was that he kept saying, “I’m going home.” She would say, “Okay, let’s go,” not realizing that she lived apart from him now.

I suggested this instead:

Him: “Honey, I have to run to the store.”
Her: “Okay, I’ll come with you.”
Him: “I’m taking the truck and it’s packed with stuff. I can’t fit anyone else.”
Her: “Oh, okay. I’ll wait here.”

How much easier was that?

No fight, no trouble, and all you had to do was be quick on your feet. It wasn’t a lie, because he’s Embracing Her Reality. Learn more about my work in the video below, or check out my eKit on the topic here.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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