White lies necessary sometimes to help persons with dementia

We thank Ms Akshita Nanda for her article (Is it okay to lie to dementia patients?; Nov 25).

The Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) agrees with the writer's view that white lies are sometimes necessary, especially if it is to minimise risk or to enhance the well-being of the person with dementia.

We should empathise with them as persons with dementia may be confused with a distorted reality and may be suffering from anxiety and even depression.

White lies can be used to maintain the safety of loved ones or gain their cooperation in everyday activities such as at mealtimes, personal hygiene or getting to medical appointments.

Correcting their views will likely cause anger and frustration, so talking about their false ideation by asking who, what, how and when, validates their emotion, calms them and builds trust.

Trust is the building block of relationships and the person with dementia may be more receptive to listening to their caregivers.

ADA strongly believes that having caregiver and community support is vital because of the unique challenges it offers.

From our experience, caregivers can learn a lot from each other through caregiver support groups.

The aims are to build emotional resilience, grow caregiving skills and knowledge, develop a support network and normalise caregiving by knowing that there are other people with similar situations. Peer learning is sometimes the best approach, which is why ADA encourages former caregivers to share their wisdom and experiences.

Regarding the writer's friend whose father now expresses his love openly, this is probably because he no longer feels inhibited.

We are aware of cases where the character and personality of the persons with dementia change completely after developing dementia.

As the writer states, this expression of affection shows that persons with dementia still have feelings and do remember their loved ones.

Her friend must have done something right for the father to openly show his affection - and that is a positive aspect of caregiving, something that caregivers should treasure.

As we care for persons with dementia, the goal is to improve their well-being, have an open attitude and not be judgmental.

Valuing and treating them as individuals, and learning to look at things from their perspective by entering their altered reality are values we should embrace as caregivers.

Mr Jason Foo

Alzheimer's Disease Association

Chief Executive Officer