Dementia sufferers told white lies to keep them happy: Nurses and psychiatrists admit “therapeutic lying” to confused patients

Posted on 4 Sep 2013


Almost all nurses who treat dementia patients have admitted “telling white lies” to avoid distressing them, a study has revealed.

And more than two thirds of psychiatrists have said they do the same, in an NHS survey.

But many have also condemned the use of “white lies” – which are employed to avoid upsetting confused patients – as a “slippery slope”.

Examples of small “lies included not correcting patients who had forgotten that a friend or family member had died when they asked after them.

Another case saw a dementia patient allowed to wait outside a care home for an imaginary bus so they would stop “pestering nurses”, the Telegraph reports.

The nurses and health professionals quizzed said repeatedly forcing them to face an upsetting reality could mean they repeatedly undergo bereavement.

One said while they could “live with non expression of the truth” they could not tell an outright lie.

The Alzheimer’s Society said patients should be given proper support rather than a “false reality”.

Head of policy George McNamara told the paper: “It’s important to give people with dementia choice and control over their life when possible.”

The research was carried out by teams from Newcastle University and Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS trust and reported in the Nursing Standard.

They found that half of 112 care staff – including nurses – has ethical doubts about it, but almost all (98 per cent) admitted they had lied in the past, believing it was best for the patient. …

This is a difficult call. We shield children from horrible truths, why not the elderly?

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