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Fact or Fiction? How Fiblets Differ From Lies

We are taught from an early age not to lie to our parents, but when faced with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, fiblets can be a necessary strategy to keep them safe and calm.

At the World Alzheimer Conference in July 2000, the term “geriatric fiblet” was introduced as “necessary white lies to redirect loved ones or discourage them from detrimental behavior.” This tactic of bending the truth can often provide the logical reasoning your loved one needs in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.

Protecting Your Loved One

Many individuals experiencing memory impairment respond with stress, anxiety, and/or depression when they have trouble recalling information or past events. Fiblets can be used for a variety of reasons, including to protect the self-esteem of an elderly person. Emotional well-being is just as important as their physical well-being, especially when Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia is involved. 

For example, if your parent is an unsafe driver, but refuses to give up their license, it may be kinder to use a fiblet and say the car has broken down. The ability to drive may represent their independence and autonomy, and taking that away by force will feel like a violation. However, if the car no longer works, this information may be the reasoning your loved one needs in order to stop driving voluntarily. By using a fiblet, you ensure the safety of your loved one and others on the road, while simultaneously providing them with the logic they need to accept this change.

Identifying the Goal

When you hear misinformation, it can be tempting to correct your parent or loved one, but it’s important to identify the main goal of the situation: keeping your loved one safe, stable, and healthy. Correcting their misinformation regularly may agitate or confuse them, creating unnecessary anxiety and constantly drawing their attention to their memory impairment.

Fiblets differ from lies because their primary goal is keeping a loved one safe. When deciding whether to use fiblets or not in a given situation, ask yourself this: will the truth do more harm than good? Will the use of a fiblet benefit my loved one? Utilizing the fiblet approach is often necessary for the safety and emotional wellbeing of an individual with dementia.

Joining Their Reality

When someone is experiencing memory impairment, they are likely also interpreting news and events differently than the average person. They may even fabricate situations in which they believe you are a different person or they are living in a different time from their past.

Instead of pulling them back to the present, think about joining your loved one in their reality and enjoying quality time with them. The details of their fictional experience may not be clear to you, but the emotional experience you’re sharing with them is just as important. Using a fiblet in this scenario may provide your loved one with the emotional support and understanding they need.

When to Use Fiblets

It may be tempting to use fiblets to solve everyday issues, but your relationship with your loved one will be strongest when built on trust and understanding. Only use the fiblet strategy when it’s necessary to protect the physical health and emotional well-being of your loved one. Otherwise, when confronted with challenging situations, take the time to help them understand and participate in the decision making process. 

Willow River is Here to Help

At Willow River, we understand the challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia can bring. If you have questions or need help, Willow River has the answers and resources you need. Call Willow River Senior Living at 888-546-1886 to start the conversation today.