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A loved one drifting through the shadows of dementia clutches your wrist and implores you to find her husband. She no longer recognizes you, or remembers the laughter and tenderness you’ve shared. She can’t comprehend the steady erosion of her memories, the parts of herself that have crumbled away.
And she doesn’t remember that the husband she adores died decades ago.
Time - Truth - Grief - Time - Hour
What should you say? The last time she heard the truth, she howled and cried, reliving her grief as if for the first time. Then, after an hour of sobbing, she forgot the entire conversation and asked for her husband again.
As she searches your face now, should you tell her the truth and watch the agony wash over her? Or should you spare her the pain and fib that he’s gone out to the store?
Dignity - Happiness
Dignity or Happiness?
Such heartbreaking dilemmas inspired a recent article in The New Yorker by award-winning writer Larissa MacFarquar. In her challenging piece, MacFarquar explores the practice of “therapeutic lying,” a controversial approach in dementia care that favors deception over dragging people discombobulated and frightened into a reality they can’t understand.
MacFarquar - Guides - Memory - Care - Centers
MacFarquar guides us through memory care centers that feature 1930s décor, fake bus stops, and artificial simulations of the beach, all intended to mirror the realities of people locked within their distant memories. Proponents of such simulated environments argue that familiar details, even if fabricated, comfort dementia sufferers, and soothe the confusion and agitation that arise when their sharpest memories don’t align with their surroundings. Critics question the impact of systematic deception on the hearts and minds of caregivers and dementia sufferers alike.
Throughout her sensitive investigation, MacFarquar posits a quandary: Should we be blisteringly honest with dementia sufferers in the name of dignity and truth, even if the facts devastate them? Or should we lie and collude with...
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