Do you lie to someone who has Alzheimer’s
The problem is, most of us are taught to be “truth-tellers” regardless. To flat-out lie to a parent or authority figure is a most odious sin.
Well, that’s probably true until your parent or loved one is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia. Then, lying becomes a way of life unless you want an all-out war deciding the color of their underwear for the day, or whether their shower is in the morning or skipped altogether. Living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia brings the lesson “Don’t Sweat the small stuff” home with a bang!
The next day after Mom moved in with us on a permanent basis, I awoke to find her sitting on the edge of the bed with bags packed and ready to go home. I lied and assured her that it was only temporary, a week to help out with our home-based business. She’d done that before when her memory was fine and I thought she’d agree to it now without conflict. No, she would not, she let me know. She’d been here for weeks and weeks, she said, and she was going home! Her arms crossed her chest and her determined chin jutted.
Mom had only moved in the day before and already I was exhausted. My heart hammered and my stomach twisted, I knew it was time to lie and the thought made me break out in a sweat.
“Okay, Mom,” I finally agreed after every other argument failed. “I’ll take you home in the morning. Let’s put your clothes away until later. Then I will help you re-pack them.”
After much thought, she finally agreed and emptied her bags back into the drawers and settled herself back into our family routine established only the day before. I sighed, feeling I’d conquered the world– until after lunch.
I’d finished several hours work in the den before I noticed the silence and wondered what Mom was doing to occupy herself now.
When I turned the corner into her room, I had a sudden, sinking feeling of deja vu. She sat on the foot of the bed, bags packed again, smiling innocently. “I’ve been here a couple months now and I thought you might take me home after awhile.”
My heart sank! We had had the same argument a couple times already, and I’d offered the same reasoning and pleading and coaxing and begging. It always ended with the same result, Mom was crying and I was angry and Alzheimer’s had won because I’d lost all composure. I wanted to shout! “You have not been here for months. You’ve been here for 2 days and we’ve already unpacked your bags 15 times!“
But I didn’t. I swallowed instead and soothed Mom where she sagged at the foot of the bed. Then I opened my mouth to explain it all again, ‘she’d only just arrived, she’d forgotten, she was going to stay with us awhile, she might get to go home and she might not’–then I stopped. I knew she wouldn’t understand, she couldn’t understand and it wasn’t her fault. Then, I began the lie, “Okay, Mom, I don’t have time right now but I’ll run you home first thing in the morning.”
Her eyes glistened with fresh tears and she had the look of a 5 year-old given a beloved toy. “I don’t mean to make you mad,” she explained. “I just want to go home. I like visiting with you, but I’ve been here for months and I need to go home and check on my place.”
I gave her a hug and broadened the lie, “I know, Mom. You’ve been here a long time. I’ll take you home in the morning. We’ll get up early and head over to your place.”
She was overjoyed!
That same lie was repeated (along with a few others) many times every single day for many months.
Mom never put her clothes back into the dresser for the entire time that she lived with us. She lived out of her suitcases. I didn’t like it, but I learned to live with it. You learn to live with many things that would normally be unacceptable but for Alzheimer’s. I finally learned that explaining Alzheimer’s and memory loss to Mom every half hour was a hopeless endeavor, she didn’t understand what I was saying and never remembered a word of my explanations. And to help myself, I suppose, I finally reasoned that I wasn’t lying to my Mom at all, for she never remembered what I told her anyway, but I was lying to Alzheimer’s.
And more lies may need to be told when it’s time:
- Remove their car when driving is a hazard to themselves and others
- When moving them to a nursing home because they need the additional care
- Give them medication, showers, Doctor’s Appointments, and the list goes on–
Have you faced this issue or some other behavior that was difficult for you? How did you handle it?
I’d love to see your comments and have a discussion about this post. Lying to my Mom was one of the hardest things I had to learn to do. How about you?
A few things you might need if your parent comes to live with you