What’s Compassionate Deception and why does it matter


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What is compassionate deception? And why does it matter? I heard this term on LinkedIn, of course. Just the other week somebody had commented and said something about compassionate deception, kind of comparing it to what I teach, which is Embracing Their Reality™. And I just really reacted to that in my head. I thought, I’ve never heard this term before. And I don’t like it. The way that we talk about communication, dementia care communication specifically is really important when we use phrases like compassionate deception. When we use phrases like therapeutic lying or white lies or FTS, which as you all know, I hate particularly. It just is like a gross word. I think we make what we’re really doing very difficult to explain to family caregivers and to professional caregivers because they hear these phrases and they think, well, compassionate deception. Like I don’t want to be deceptive.

So I’m just going to tell the person living with dementia, the truth of my reality, the way that we phrase what we’re doing is so important. The nomenclature of communication is absolutely key to making sure we’re doing the best we can to communicate appropriately. I teach embracing their reality™ because I think the phrase is much easier to get behind. There’s no explaining as to why that phrase makes people want to do it. Oh, I like embracing someone’s reality. That sounds nice. When we say things like compassionate deception or therapeutic lying the word, the second word in both of those phrases is still deception or lying. These are really negative words and people don’t want to do them. I don’t want to do them. I don’t really want to be associated with deceiving people, even if it’s for a good cause. Instead, when we’re embracing someone’s reality, we’re reframing something that could potentially sound not so great. Yes. What I teach does have some elements of newness in that. I teach people questions to use. Like where do you think your mom is? Instead of sounding like you miss your mom, right? But what I’m mostly doing is reframing something that’s really difficult for people to understand, taking a really kind of challenging term, like therapeutic, lying, and framing it in a more positive way. That’s a lot easier for people to get behind. And there’s a huge truck that feels like it shouldn’t be up here.

Who knows. Anyway, I’m hoping you came away from this with some good information, and an understanding of the way we talk about things really defines what that thing is. When we put a name or a phrase on something, it changes the way that we feel about it inherently. And you can’t really tear that apart. You can’t really tear apart the meaning from what it is.

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2 thoughts on “What’s Compassionate Deception and why does it matter”

  1. Pingback: What’s Compassionate Deception and why does it matter – Rachael Wonderlin – Dementia By Day – My Blog

  2. Pingback: What’s Compassionate Deception and why does it matter – Rachael Wonderlin – Dementia By Day – Richard Pearce

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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 three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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