Yes, Caregivers Do Lie


AgingCare.com posted a short article on “Why Caregivers Lie,” and it is worth reading, but it does not really get at some of the core issues facing caregivers supporting folks suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The AgingCare post points out that,

A whopping 73 percent of people taking care of aging family members have lied to the ones they love, according to a recent family caregiver honesty survey of over 700 AgingCare.com members. In fact, most of these men and women fib on a regular basis—43 percent admit to being untruthful at least once a week.

When they explore what the caregivers lie about most, however, it turns out that it is about how the caregiver feels. Well, heck, all kinds of people, in all kinds of roles, do that all the time.

I wish, however, that the survey and article had gone down another layer. At Support For Home In-Home Care, we work with family and professional caregivers all the time. Many of the folks receiving care have dementia or one form or another. Their reality is very different, in many cases, from that of someone without dementia.

A caregiver, to be successful, needs to understand that fact and be very comfortable moving from the caregiver’s reality to that of the person for whom they are caring. Sadly, we see too many family and even “professional” caregivers who do not get it or are just unable to operate in that manner.

When we interview applicants at Support For Home In-Home Care, we ask them about their experience and approach to supporting folks with dementia. Our adopted approach is that of Habilitation Therapy (there is a great summary of the approach here). Too many folks are unable to accept the need to lie (yes, that is the word) to clients / patients with dementia. They just feel it would violate their sense of ethics.

So, we have set up role plays with folks who claim to be good with dementia care, such as – “My wife has been dead for 10 years, but my dementia is such that, in my reality, I know it is time to go home and have lunch with her. As my caregiver, how are you going to handle this.” Sadly, too many folks want to “kindly” explain that my wife is dead and that this place is actually my home.

So, two issues have arisen. This place maybe a house I have lived in for 15 years, but if it is not familiar to me and all of my memories of it are gone, what is the value of trying to convince me it is “home.” And, please, tell me the value of explaining to me that my wife is dead and has been for 10 years. All you have done is made me distrust you and probably angry – and hurt.

On the other hand, we have a great employee who told us a different story. A patient / resident of a facility told her he had to go home and see his family. The caregiver told him that the family had called and said they would be out for a bit, but she asked him to go to “her” room to relax for a bit, until they returned home. The resident was happy and calm, successfully redirected by a caring, professional and ethical care provider.

So, do we expect our employees to lie, when caring for folks whose dementia has reached a certain stage? You better believe it. 🙂

Best wishes (and I mean that). Bert

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