Alzheimer’s Care-Therapeutic Fibbing

By Robert Elmer III on October 27, 2013 in Memory, Seniors

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Care for Caregivers

Robert E.P. Elmer III, Senior Care Advisor-Master Trainer

I received an email from a reader the other day asking me to talk more about the technique of “therapeutic fibbing.” Trust me, this is a very valuable tool in dealing with those with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders. Before I go any further, I realize that calling it therapeutic fibbing is just a fancy way of saying your going to lie to your loved one. I also understand that we were all raised to be good little boys and girls and never to lie to anyone, especially our parents or spouse or family member or friends.

In an earlier article, you may remember that I told you that the number one thing all of your loved ones are looking to their caregivers for is to feel safe. Therapeutic fibbing goes a long way to insuring that’s what happens. Over the years, when speaking to support groups or when giving a lecture, I have come across family members that just didn’t understand the reason for telling “fiblets.” Some were angry at the thought of it while others thought it was just plain “stupid.”

Experience over the years has taught me that telling your mother that your father has died when she thinks he’s out playing golf is not the way to go. When a loved one gets a little anxious and they decide they want to go downtown, you’re much better off telling them that they’ll be a bus or taxi by to pick them up in about an hour instead of trying to get them to understand that because of their limited ambulation they aren’t going anywhere! If you’re having trouble convincing them to take a shower ( always start at their feet and move up their body as they hate the water in their face), try telling them that someone special is coming to see them and you want them to look their best so let’s pick out an outfit. Remember that the easiest answer to give when you don’t understand what the mission is, is NO!

Often, for obvious reasons,  you may notice that they are wearing the same clothes. This can also be one of the early warning signs that there are bigger problems ahead. Rather than try to argue with them simply swap the old blouse or slacks or sweater with a duplicate, clean piece of clothing. If you have a Dr.s’ appointment, there’s no shame in saying “Hey, let’s go to lunch or let’s get an ice cream and then stop off at the Doctors while you’re out.

To be perfectly honest with you, if you are honest with your loved one it can lead to a very stressful situation for you and your loved one. What’s that adage about winning the battle but losing the war? You gain nothing by providing them long, drawn out explanations. Your “fiblets” should be short and to the point. “We can’t drive the car today, it needs to be serviced.” We aren’t able to go out today because the weather is going to be awful. If you are able to help them move on and become focused on something else it will better for both of you. “I want to go home” when they are home can be a tough one. Try answering by saying, “you’re safe here but let me see what I can do about making that happen but meanwhile, can you tell me about your first house?”

Remember, being reasonable, rational and logical will just get you in trouble so sharpening your therapeutic fibbing skills will go a long way to avoid stress…yours and theirs.

If you have any questions you can email me at and I’ll answer them directly or in a future post. And remember…Join the Journey.


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