Sep 22, 2011

Alzheimer's World and the Art of Lying

When you get to Alzheimer's World you have to learn how to speak Alzheimerian. A new and different language that always starts with a very simple basic premise -- always do what is best for the person living with dementia.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Is it okay to lie in the real world? No.

Honesty is important in the real world. In the real world there are consequences to lying. There are also matters of trust.

But what about Alzheimer's World? Can you lie to a person living with Alzheimer's? If you lie, will the person living with dementia stop trusting you?

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Jocelyn wrote:

I could of course lie to him and tell him we are going to Wellington and then not go as he would have forgotten by then, but I can not bring myself to do that.

Don't get huffy Jocelyn, you know you are one of my favorites.

Jocelyn was referring to how she can sometimes get Paul to take a shower if she tells him they are going to Wellington. Paul obviously likes the idea of going to Wellington. He likes it well enough that he will shower.

So would it be wrong for Jocelyn to tell Paul, we are going to Wellington when she knew they were not going just to get him to take a shower?

My position on this is clear, in Alzheimer's World it is okay to lie. In Alzheimer's World the rules are different. Pure and simple.

You might be thinking, where is Alzheimer's World? Well, it is one giant step to the left from where you are now standing. Go ahead, take the step.

Now let me ask you? Do you have trouble getting a person living with dementia to take a shower? Join the club. This is very common.

Let me ask you? Before the person (you know and love) suffered from dementia did they take a shower? Every day? Every other day? Probably. I say this because it might be difficult to love a stinky person.

Why did they take a shower? Good hygiene? It made them feel better? It made them feel better about themselves when they were clean? They didn't want to get a urinary tract infection?

Now living with dementia, they won't take a shower. Why? Who cares why? All we need to know is they won't.

The only thing I can assume is that the changes in their brain has caused them to think differently.

So now I will ask you, how are you doing when you continue to force a person with dementia to think like you? Or, to think the way they use to think?

I think most of us learn that doing what we use to do just doesn't work well when trying to deal effectively with a person living with dementia.

Living with dementia requires a new way of thinking. A person living with dementia lives in a new and different parallel world. This new and different place is called Alzheimer's World.

So let me ask you? If you were shipped off to Russia tomorrow and you refused to learn the Russian language how do you think you would do? Would you be frustrated? Angry? Discombobulated? I bet you would be.

Well, the language in Alzeheimer's World is also different and sooner or later you need to learn how to speak Alzheimerian (Alz-heim-er-ian).

What is best? Shower or no shower? Going out and being around other people, or staying home in your cave all day long? Sitting in the dark, or getting out into the bright light of the sun?

In the case of Paul. Would he be happier if he took a shower? Would he feel better about himself? Healthier?

If we could go back in time and ask Paul what he would want us to do if he could no longer make "the best decisions" for himself, what would he say? Would he say, if you have to lie to get me to take a shower or do things, its okay honey?

Are you lying to someone living with dementia when you tell a "little white lie" to get them to do what is best for them? Is it really a "little white lie".

When you get to Alzheimer's World you have to learn how to speak Alzheimerian. A new and different language that always starts with a very simple basic premise -- always do what is best for the person living with Alzheimer's. This is the first basic rule of living in Alzheimer's World. The second basic rule is, it is now about you, it is about the person who is relying on you.

Doing what is in the best interest of a person living with Alzheimer's always trumps the means we use to get them to do it.

I believe if they could, a person living with dementia would thank you for doing this. After all, I think they already understand that you are taking wonderful good care of them. Even if they can't tell you.

So, try learning to speak Alzheimerian.

If you can't do it. Try this.

Paul, its time to take a shower because we might be going to Wellington today.

Don't forget to give the person living with dementia a big kiss on the check after they take their shower (or agree to go out). If you can't go to Wellington that day, give them a great big bowl of ice cream and apologize for the fact that you can't go.

Pretty soon they'll start taking the shower. I mean who can resist a great big kiss, and a bowl of ice cream.

In case you didn't know this, ice cream is the number one selling product in Alzheimer's World.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room