Is It Okay to Tell a Little White Lie to an Alzheimer’s Patient?

Is It Okay to Tell a Little White Lie to an Alzheimer’s Patient?

Elayne ForgieThe Ask the Expert Column appears in the Palm Beach Post every Tuesday!

Question: My dad has Alzheimer’s. Sometimes I have to tell a little white lie just to avoid an argument and get him to the doctor. I feel so guilty – is it ever okay to lie?

Answer:  Resistance to going to a doctor is not uncommon. You are asking your dad to leave the one place he feels most safe – his own home.

You might want to get into a routine of having your father accompany you when you run errands. You can then try adding a doctor appointment to the routine.  While I would never encourage people to lie, the benefits to your dad of a “therapeutic white lie”– telling him you are going to do errands but omitting the part about the doctor—should outweigh the harm that we normally associate with lying.

When you are ready to go out with your dad, be kind but firm.  Smile, and tell him in a warm and loving manner.  Allow enough time to do all that you need to accomplish to reduce your own stress. Planning ahead, doing things slowly and lovingly, and keeping your father’s day as structured as possible will support your objective.

Please submit your questions to[email protected]

Elayne Forgie has been a professional geriatric care manager specializing in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for more than 21 years. She was a founding Board Member of the Florida Geriatric Care Managers Association and is a member of the Case Management Society of America and the American Counseling Association.