In an effort, to raise awareness, educate our community and assist families who have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease, this month’s article will explore the technique of Therapeutic Fibbing and why experts recommend applying it to assist communicating with someone experiencing dementia.

Stepping into someone’s reality is not the same as lying. Honesty is not always the best policy when it comes to someone with Alzheimer’s or other related form of dementia. Their brain may experience a different version of reality. Dementia damages the brain and causes progressive decline in the ability to understand and process information. Forcing someone to abandon their version of reality and join our “real world” can cause confusion, pain, anxiety, fear, and anger. Dementia care experts often recommend a technique called therapeutic fibbing. It helps you step into their current reality and spare them unnecessary upset and distress. This technique takes some getting used to because going along with your older adult’s new reality can feel like you are lying to them. Using white lies to validate their feelings and reassure them is certainly not the same as lying for a malicious reason. Using therapeutic fibs can provide real comfort and reassurance.

Most of us our taught at a young age that any kind of lying is horrible and dishonest. So, when we hear about using therapeutic fibbing to lie to someone with dementia, it may seem cruel and wrong. Always sticking to the truth, especially about an emotional subject or something trivial can cause the older adult real pain, confusion, and distress. Dementia prevents people from properly processing and retaining information. Having short-term memory issues mean they will probably soon forget the conversation, so it will come up again. Telling the truth each time forces them to experience fresh distress over and over again.

Here is an example that illustrates the difference between being completely honest and using therapeutic fibbing.

Being completely truthful

Mom: School is over. My mommy is coming to pick me up now. I need to go outside and wait for her!

You: You’re 89-years-old. You haven’t been to school in decades. And don’t you remember that your mom died 25 years ago? You don’t need to go outside because she’s not coming to pick you up.

Mom: What? What do you mean my mom is dead? No! She can’t be dead! I saw her this morning! She told me she would pick me up! I need to go outside and wait!! (She’s crying, agitated, and screaming.)

Using Therapeutic Fibbing

Mom: School is over. My mommy is coming to pick me up now. I need to go outside to wait for her!

You: Oh yes, it’s almost time to go. Your mom asked me to give you a snack first so you won’t get hungry on your way home. Let’s have some juice and crackers while we wait.

Mom: Ok, I’ll have a snack.

You: Use this distraction as an opportunity to occupy her with the snack and a fun activity until she lets go of or forgets about the idea of her mother picking her up.

What works one day, may not work on another but this is one option to try as you journey through caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

For more information about Therapeutic Fibbing and local resources to assist you in caring for yourself, and the person you are caring for, contact Jayne Mund, Caregiver Consultant at 651-257-7905 or email her at

For more information about the CambridgeACT on Alzheimer’s call Julie Tooker at 763-691-6192. The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group will meet the third Tuesday of each month, on Dec. 15, from 10-11:30 a.m. The group meets at Heritage Center at GracePointe Crossing, 322 River Hills Place N., Cambridge. For more information contact Molly Carlson at or call 763-691-6172.

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