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Have you ever found yourself wondering if there's a more compassionate way to handle the complex behaviors associated with dementia?

If so, you're not alone.

Let's dive into a recent podcast episode that sheds light on this very topic.

In this episode:

0:00:58 Unpacking Challenging Behaviors in Society

0:01:40 Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families

0:02:37 Introduction to Episode 61 on challenging behaviors

0:08:03 The dilemma of using therapeutic lying for dementia patients

0:09:14 Seeking guidance on the ethical dilemma of therapeutic lying

0:11:03 Finding a potential solution for the dilemma through non-alcoholic wine

0:12:07 Introduction to Dementia Caregiving and Therapeutic Truth-telling

0:14:29 Applying Therapeutic Truth-telling in Different Scenarios

0:18:02 The Importance of Therapeutic Truth-telling and Christian Worldview

0:23:35 Empowering Dementia Caregivers: Workshop, Facebook Group, Podcast

The Ethical Dilemma of Therapeutic Lying

A significant part of the episode delves into the controversial technique of therapeutic lying. This approach, previously taught by Lizette, involves telling white lies to dementia patients to ease their distress or confusion.

However, Lizette shares her recent conviction that this practice, while seemingly beneficial, might not align with ethical principles and can be distressing for caregivers.

Introducing Therapeutic Truth-Telling

The podcast introduces an alternative approach called therapeutic truth-telling.

This method involves finding a way to speak the truth in every situation, thus respecting the dignity of the person with dementia while avoiding the ethical dilemma of lying. It's about validating their beliefs and gently guiding the conversation, ensuring honest but compassionate communication.

A Christian Perspective on Dementia Care

Lizette, who approaches caregiving from a Christian worldview, emphasizes the importance of honesty and integrity in caregiving. This perspective resonates not only with believers but also with anyone who values ethical caregiving practices.

The podcast encourages listeners to consider therapeutic truth-telling, regardless of their religious beliefs, as a universally respectful approach to dementia care.

Empowering Caregivers Through Resources and Community

The episode extends an invitation to a free monthly workshop focused on managing dementia-related behaviors and preparing caregivers for their role. Lizette also encourages joining the podcast's Facebook group, "Dementia Caregiving for Families," for personalized help and support in a positive and proactive environment.

Join the Journey of Compassionate Dementia Caregiving

We invite you to subscribe to the podcast, share it with others, and participate in the community. By joining the free workshop and Facebook group, you can gain valuable insights and tools for your caregiving journey.

This podcast episode is more than just a discussion on dementia caregiving techniques; it's a compassionate guide for those seeking to navigate the complexities of dementia care with honesty and empathy.

Join Lizette and the community of caregivers in finding a more manageable and ethical path in dementia caregiving.

Read More:

One Mistake A Dementia Caregiver Makes By Not Traveling With Kathy Smith Shoaf

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Listen to the Podcast

Listen to the episode on the player above, click here to download the episode and take it with you or listen anywhere you normally listen to podcasts.

Is Therapeutic Lying A Good Way To Help Challenging Dementia Behaviors

Introduction to Challenging Behaviors in Dementia

[0:02] Wow, what a great episode, Dementia Success Seeker.

I just, we just finished the episode on what are challenging behaviors, and it was a great episode.

We looked at a couple of different things. We looked at how people, what, first of all, what quote unquote challenging behaviors are and are not.

And then, potentially, we looked at three different ways of classifying challenging dementia behaviors based on what is out in the healthcare world, what they're called.

One is called behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

TIPA talks about control and connect. And then the third one that we talked about, which I can never remember, I always have to look at, or symptom-based behaviors versus underlying causes-based behaviors.

Unpacking Challenging Behaviors in Society

[0:58] So we kind of unpacked those three things. I went on a long rant on how we, quote, unquote, we being society, actually help contribute to what's called challenging behaviors.

And then we talked about a case study or an example of a person that I helped yesterday in my free Facebook group called Dementia Caregiving for Families.

So thank you for listening to the episode today. I'm super excited that you're here.

If you're not a part of my Facebook group, remember to go join the Facebook group and here's the next episode.

Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families

[1:40] Hey there, success seeker. Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families.

Do you feel overwhelmed with the daily struggle of dementia caregiving, looking for an easier path?

You're in the right place.

On this podcast, we teach you the skills to simplify caregiving.

We unravel the mystery of dementia and guide you through the often difficult behaviors.

I'm Lizette, your host and fellow family caregiver. As an occupational therapist, I bring my professional and personal experience to this community.

Here we speak the truth, but without the verbal vomit.

I know you will find value in today's program, so buckle up while this flight takes off.


[2:37] Well, welcome back to today's episode. Today's episode is 61, and it's a continuation on the theme from the episode previously.

If you haven't listened to that one, it's an episode 60 on challenging behaviors in air quotes, challenging behaviors.

For people who are watching, you can see me do the air quote thing.

For people who are listening, every time I say challenging behaviors, I want you to see them in air quotes because challenging behaviors are definitely something that we need to think about and look at.

And so I want you to go listen to episode 60, where we actually talk about challenging behaviors in air quotes and what that means.

So today is episode 61, and as a continuation on that, I wanted to talk about a technique that is commonly out there in society called therapeutic lying.

Now why do I want to talk about therapeutic lying?

I want to talk about therapeutic lying because I have come to the conclusion, I have been convicted that therapeutic lying is actually wrong.

So now before you shoot me, before everybody gets all bent out of shape, I want you to just stop and think a about.

[4:03] And listen to the rest of this episode as I unpack that for you, because we all have a worldview, right?

Everybody out in the world has a worldview, whether you know you have a worldview or not, you have a worldview.

You have a filter through which you process all information you're getting, from every podcast you listen to, from every conversation you have with people related to any piece of information that you take in, you take in through the lens.

[4:39] Of a pair of glasses that is your worldview.

Whether you know you have one or not, we all have a worldview.

And my worldview is a Christian worldview, which means that the lens that I use to filter all information that I get comes from a Christian background, a Christian worldview.

So let me take a step back and tell you that for years, decades, decades, I taught people to use the technique called therapeutic lying, right? And...

To be perfectly honest, it can be a very effective way of helping somebody living with dementia because the idea or the premise behind therapeutic lying is that the person with dementia is living in a different time in their brain, not time travel type of time, But that in their brain, as their brain has changed, they are now living in a different, their body, brain, memories, everything is in a different time than what we are.

So what's an example of that?

[6:06] Mom and dad had been married for 70 years. Mom has dementia.

Dad recently passed away. Mom is living with the daughter.

Who then mom keeps asking the daughter, where is my husband?

And every time the daughter says, well, my daddy died, then mommy relives the whole experience of daddy passing away.

And so the premise is she doesn't remember because she cannot remember that part of her brain is not working anymore.

So instead of letting her relive this horrible, horrific, traumatic event of her husband of 70 years passing away.

The technique of therapeutic lying, in a nutshell, is to then say to her, well, you know, Daddy's at the store, or, you know, whatever.

And so, that is the premise. The reasoning behind it, I totally 100% agree with.

[7:11] But I have been convicted that it is actually wrong.

So, like I said, the premise of not reliving that horrendous death and passing away of her husband is sound, and yes, we want to be where mom is.

We want to meet mom where mom is. Well, let me tell you.

What happened. I was in a Sunday school class several months ago, and like I said, I have been teaching people for decades to use the therapeutic tool called Therapeutic Lying.

Well, we were in the Sunday school, and our pastor, and we were, it's a teaching pastor at our church, he's not our pastor pastor.

The dilemma of using therapeutic lying for dementia patients

[8:03] Ryan was actually going over the Seventh Commandment about um, telling, you know, not bearing false witness.

And in the conversation, and as the Sunday school unpacked, um, I'm sitting there and I'm thinking to myself, ooh, boy, I am now stuck.

I'm like, I work with people living with dementia, and I teach, actively teach people, because like I said, I was convicted that what I was doing was wrong.

That it is wrong to flat-out lie to a person living with dementia just because it makes it easier for me.

[8:43] So now I have a problem, right?

Because on the one hand, the technique is sound, and it works, and I don't want Mama, whose husband just passed away, to constantly be reliving the death of her spouse of 70 years.

But at the same time, I don't want to lie, And I don't want to teach people then to lie because through my worldview I have been convicted that that is wrong.

And now I have a problem. I'm like, what am I gonna do?

Seeking guidance on the ethical dilemma of therapeutic lying

[9:14] So I'm sitting there and I'm like Ryan and I stick up my hand and I say Ryan I need your help with this. So here's the situation, My mom and dad had been longstanding wine drinkers for decades and decades.

And as my dad had gotten sick a couple of years ago, one of the things that happened in the hospital was they weaned him off of alcohol.

And after he came out of the hospital, he has stayed off of alcohol.

He has not gone back to actually drinking any wine or beer.

And we did that with my dad with his, Well, without his permission when he was super confused in the hospital, but then with his consent now, afterwards, because the doctor laid it on the line.

[10:04] Legitimately told him that if he didn't quit drinking, he wouldn't live another year.

So, my dad and his decided to stay.

You know, I can't keep him off of... When they were living with us, I could keep him off of alcohol, right?

But now that they're living on their own, I certainly have less control over their environment. So, bring, fast forward to my mom.

So, without my mom's consent, but with the permission of the doctor, because my dad wasn't able to, allowed to drink medically, we made the decision as a family, me, my husband, and my sister and her husband, in conjunction with the doctor, while we were in.

[10:49] While they were living with us, and while we had control of the environment, to slowly wean my mom off of wine so that she wouldn't be a stumbling block to my dad. So that's the situation.

Finding a potential solution for the dilemma through non-alcoholic wine

[11:03] So all of this stuff's going around my head where I'm thinking to myself, now how can I continue to not do therapeutic lying anymore, but I need to keep my mom off of wine? And so I said, hey, Ryan, what do I do?

And what he pointed out to me was, so the way we had, was that I wasn't lying because number one, non-alcoholic wine is actually still wine.

It is de-alcoholized wine.

It's wine that they pulled the alcohol out. So I'm not lying in number two.

The second thing that he said to me, because I explained to him, there was a full bottle of wine in the five liter box.

And I have a whole video, So if you want to know how to actually refill a five liter box of wine, it is doable with non-alcoholic or de-alcoholized wine.

So go look on my YouTube channel.

Introduction to Dementia Caregiving and Therapeutic Truth-telling

[12:07] Dementia Caregiving for Families, and look for the one that says, How to Replace the Wine.

I don't remember what the title is, but it is possible to do.

So what Ryan, my pastor, teaching pastor, said was that you need, you know, find the truth in the situation.

And so with my mom, I could, with a clear conscience, say to her, here's your wine, because there was still wine in the box, right?

So I came up with a different word for this, and I call it therapeutic truth-telling.

Instead of therapeutic lying, I call it therapeutic truth-telling.

[12:47] How do we find the truth in the situation so that I'm not telling a flat-out lie?

And so the follow-up conversation with my pastor, Ryan, was, Okay, Ryan, how do I apply this technique?

How do I do this with other people and not just, say, this situation with my mom? And so let's step back to the example that I used of the woman who had been married for 70 years whose husband has just passed away.

[13:18] And, you know, Ryan and I had a conversation. And so this is a very common scenario.

So I actually used a similar scenario with him.

And I asked him, I said, how do I handle that? Because on the one hand, the therapeutic line, the technique is solid because mom is not living there anymore.

She really cannot know, she cannot understand, she cannot remember that her husband of 70 years has passed away.

And at the same time, if I tell her every single time, but mama, your daddy's passed away, then she is going to be reliving it and I'm just causing her unnecessary pain and quote unquote challenging behaviors that I have caused.

Me, the primary caregiver, then actually causes that behavior.

So I'm like, how do I navigate this? How do I do this now so that I'm still telling the truth, but I'm not upsetting mama?

Because I want to be truthful.

Like I said, I come from a Christian worldview.

I feel convicted that therapeutic lying is wrong, so how do I do this?

Applying Therapeutic Truth-telling in Different Scenarios

[14:29] So I've come up with a technique I call therapeutic truth-telling.

So what does therapeutic truth-telling look like?

So the same scenario. Mama comes to the daughter and says, Where's Daddy?

And the daughter asks Mom, Well, where do you think Daddy is?

[14:47] And try to get mom to see where mom's at in her head.

So mom could answer, well, daddy is at work.

Or mom could answer, well, daddy's out in the garden.

Or mom could say, I don't know where daddy is, right? So say mom says, well, daddy is at work.

Well, instead of me supplying the answer and saying, Well, daddy is at work.

Now, I know after asking mom, she thinks dad's at work. So, this is somewhere in that time frame in their life.

And I can just reinforce what she already believes. I didn't flat out lie.

As opposed to, you know, mom's upset, where's dad? Dad's at work.

I now go, well, mom's upset, where's dad?

Well, mommy, where do you think daddy is? And Mommy supplies the answer as to where Mommy thinks Daddy is.

And then I just validate, which is a great technique that we use every single day with people living with dementia.

We validate where they are. We validate their emotions.

And that helps them and us to connect with one another.

So then she says, well, Daddy's at work. and all I have to do, which isn't a lie, is tell her, well, you must be right.

[16:13] Because that is what she believes. I didn't flat-out lie and supply the answer, which is what therapeutic lying does.

It's me supplying the answer to her that makes sense to her.

So now I'm taking an in-between step, and I say, well, Mom, where do you think Daddy is?

And she says, well, Daddy's at work, and I just confirm or validate what she believes.

[16:42] If mommy says to me, I don't know where daddy is, then I try to get more information.

And I would ask a question that goes something like, well, tell me a little bit more about daddy, right?

And try to get a conversation going and see if I can get mommy to either come up with a place where Daddy might be, or by gently leading the conversation by validating, I know Mom's looking for Dad because Mom's...

[17:21] Mom's still aware, and she knows there's a dad, and dad's not here, and I was married for 70 years, and I'm missing him.

And she's trying to connect with me, or connect with dad, instead of me, you know, just trying to redirect her hard, and change the subject, because it's hard for me.

I say to her, well, you know, where do you think daddy is?

And she's like, I don't know where daddy is. then I might just ask a follow-up question and say, well, tell me a little bit more about Daddy.

And have her supply all of what I need in order for me to redirect her without actually lying.

The Importance of Therapeutic Truth-telling and Christian Worldview

[18:03] So to recap today's program, I know that it is a, you know, it's a difficult thing for so many different people out there who maybe are Christians, like myself, and that they don't want to do therapeutic lying.

[18:20] And so this technique called therapeutic truth-telling is specifically for you.

This is my gift to you to be able to do it in a different way.

And if you're not a Christian, if you're not a believer, that doesn't mean that you cannot use this technique because most of us know lying is wrong.

And I know a lot of people probably struggle with that because we are ingrained from childhood not to lie to one another.

And now, as an adult with a person who's living with dementia, we're being told to flat-out lie to them.

And you know what? I think they can sense it. I think they know somewhere in their body that people aren't telling the truth to them.

So, I would challenge you to consider, even if you're not a believer, to not use therapeutic lying, but to actually use therapeutic truth-telling. because we all know.

[19:15] We all know lying is wrong. Um, so, you know, this program, this dementia caregiving for families, isn't overtly for people who are believers.

But to be perfectly frank, I make all of my decisions, because I am a Christian, I make all of my decisions through that lens.

So I invite you to still stay, and, you know, not all of the episodes are gonna be as overtly, uh, talking about my belief system.

Because, you know, I've been doing this for 30 years and I've worked with thousands of people and most of them were not believers and we did fine.

But it's because this has been on my heart.

This has been on my heart specifically about the therapeutic lying and that it isn't the right technique to use with people with dementia.

So, like I said, I was convicted. I'm not telling you what to do.

I'm suggesting a different way of helping the people that we love because I know one thing for sure, if you are listening to this podcast, you are dealing with dementia in your life.

If you're listening to this podcast, you might be struggling with therapeutic lying.

If you're listening to this podcast, you're definitely probably a person who has an interest at the very least in learning more about dementia and dementia caregiving and doing it in a better and more efficient way.

[20:40] So what are the next steps that I need for you to do? The first thing I want you to do is, you know, if you haven't joined my free workshop, I do a free monthly workshop every month, once a month.

The topic right now is how to manage quote unquote challenging behaviors, or that's one of the points that we actually go over.

And then other things that we look at are how ready you are to be a caregiver, what we can do to make you more ready.

And then that there are four different plans. There are only four plans, really, that you can do with a person living with dementia, and we kind of unpack those three things.

So we look at how ready you are to be a caregiver.

We look at the four different plans that there are, and I give you a very easy framework, a repeatable framework, for you to be able to help a person living with dementia to manage.

[21:37] For you to manage the behaviors that are so common to dementia using a repeatable framework.

So if you haven't been through the workshop, I recommend that you, I recommend strongly you join the workshop.

The URL is Dementia Caregiving Made Easy forward slash workshop.

It'll be in the show notes below. I want you to join me for the next workshop. It's once a month.

If you need help between then You can reach me, you can book a call, we can have a 20 minute phone call and I can help you over the phone.

The best thing that you can do for me though is like and subscribe to the podcast, like and subscribe to the YouTube channel and then join my free Facebook group where you can get more one-on.

[22:27] Where in the group setting you can get more help and ask your specific questions related to your specific world and we can help you because dementia caregiving does not need to be as difficult as what we make it out to be.

I'm telling you guys, the health care system has failed us.

It has left us alone without any help and without any hope and I want to be that hope, that light in the, you know, in the distance, a lighthouse for you to be able to focus on and find an easier way through this process.

We do not need to destroy our lives. We do not need for it to be as hard as it is.

We do not need for the people that we are caring for to struggle as much as we struggle.

So I beg you, join me on this journey. Thank you for joining today's episode.

In case you can't tell, I'm super passionate about what I'm doing.

I'm super passionate about helping family caregivers, primarily family caregivers.

family caregiver checking the stress tracker

Empowering Dementia Caregivers: Workshop, Facebook Group, Podcast

[23:35] People living with dementia. So join the free workshop, join the Facebook group, subscribe to the podcast, review this podcast, share it far and wide, and let's make dementia caregiving easy for people.

Let us make it easier for people to actually thrive this journey and not just survive.

Thanks for joining me today, Success Seeker. I pour my heart and soul into this program to serve you.

You can serve me by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and join our free Facebook group, Dementia Caregiving for Families.

It's a positive and proactive space to navigate dementia caregiving together, get practical tools, and find support but without the verbal vomit.

Be a part of our community where we seek to find peace of mind and ease despite the dementia diagnosis.

So join today and see you next time as our friend.

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About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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