Molly Wisniewski has cared for older adults living with dementia for over ten years. She is a recent graduate of the Erickson School, UMBC where she received her M.A. in the Management of Aging Services. Her project the Upside to Aging is dedicated to sharing an alternative and more positive side to aging.
Dementia Care: The Benefits of Staying in Their Reality
Caring for an individual with Dementia or Alzheimer’s is an emotional experience. The seemingly erratic behaviors and the lost ability to efficiently communicate make the job more difficult and creates a barrier to understanding. For many of our care workers, communication becomes limited to the direction of care and the redirection of behavior.
As we discuss topics of Ageism, we must also include those who may already be experiencing the effects of ageism in care homes. The type of care we provide is highly dependent upon our understanding of the disease and the acceptance that the methods of communications have changed. With understanding, we will find that these individuals aren’t “behaving” in a particular way because they have Alzheimer’s, but because they are trying to communicate with us in a new way.
This paper will explore both Reality Orientation and Therapeutic Lying approaches through the lens of Ageism and attitudes towards individuals living with dementia and the potential to redefine the way we think and deliver care.
Therapeutic lying embraces aspects of empathy and validation training. However, the method itself can be learned as a type of practice and has multiple uses and benefits for
those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Incorporating therapeutic lying into our care practices is essential because when we engage them in their stories of the past, we learn and connect on their terms, not ours.
Therapeutic lying reduces stress and pain of loss for both the caregiver and the person receiving care. However, this method is not standard practice, and, in many care homes, the use of Reality Orientation takes preference despite the increased level of anxiety that occurs as a result. Some critics of the practice cite the ethical implications of lying to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s as a reason not to adopt the practice.
The increased number of individuals diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s in the years ahead demands our attention. We can no longer commit to practices of care that don’t work. As adults, we are always being told to live in the moment. And when we are with an individual living with dementia or Alzheimer’s this sentiment couldn’t be truer. Caregivers are often left to focus on the medical and physical care of the person. But they deserve to be able to spend time with them and to get to know them during this new phase of their lives.