Sometimes a white lie can help
January 27, 2020

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

Q: Our family and my mother’s physician have determined it would be best to move her to a memory care facility. Over the past year her physical health has deteriorated and confusion has increased. I have already mentioned this to her but she had no reaction to the news. She either did not understand what I was saying or she simply “tuned” me out. How am I going to handle this if she shows resistance?

A: It is imperative to understand communication with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia typically can be challenging or in some instances hopeless. As you mentioned in your mother situation, the individual may no longer have the capacity to understand or may become uncooperative if the topic overwhelms them.
In the 2000 World Alzheimer’s Congress, the term “fiblet” was referred to as “necessary white lies to redirect loved ones or discourage them from detrimental behavior.” Therapeutic “fiblets” are used to calm, reassure, and/or reduce anxiety in the person with dementia. It is important to point out this technique should only be used with someone who has cognitive impairment.

The thought of using “fiblets” may make some adult children a little uncomfortable. Odds are most us were raised under the premise that honesty is the best policy. Even though using a “fiblet” may go against everything we were taught, if it achieves a positive outcome then it is in everyone’s best interest.

Long explanations on why your mother needs to leave her home and enter a facility will be lost on her. The goal is to create a positive outcome and minimize negative feelings. In similar situations some caregivers have promised their parent the move is temporary and the person can always return home (even though this would never happen). Once the elder is in the facility trained staff will be able to help smooth the transition.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

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