Do we tell lies to a Person with Dementia?

In a working environment where I deal with people with Dementia every day, there are often situations that go against our standards and values. People with Dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with Dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers.

A few days ago, Gana asked me, “What do I do when a person suffering from Dementia asks me to look for her cousin, who died a long time ago?” My reply was, what did you answer?


It often happens that a patient with Dementia asks a random person to do something for him or her. Sometimes they ask to look for a deceased family member or pet. Sometimes they miss a beloved piece of clothing or want to go home.

What do you do in such a case?

Do you tell the demented that that person is no longer there?

Or do you reassure the demented person and tell them that you are looking for the relatives and let them know if you have found that person?

To this Gana replied that she told the patient with Dementia, Mrs. A. that she does not know who her cousin is and did not know where to look.

Gana did not want to lie to Mrs. A. but the most important thing was that she did not want to lie to her own standards and values.

Moving at the moment

Gana is not the only one who has to deal with this dilemma.

Are you really lying or are you putting yourself into their shoes, or actually into their demented brain in this situation?

Dealing with a demented person requires a lot of patience and creativity.

The solution is caring for Dementia patients in real-time, at the moment. Demented people do not have a healthy brain. Therefore they don’t and can’t think as we do.

A while ago one of my other patients was very restless and was looking for his mother.

I went to him, put my hand on his shoulder and said that his mother had gone to the market to get groceries. She wanted him to be a good boy while she was away. At that moment I moved with his moment.

Apart from the fact that his mother had passed away a long time ago, I told him the truth. His mother visited the market in his youth and always wanted him to be good.

My patient had become calm and continued his own way in his world.

In their world

In Gana’s case, I replied that it is a possibility not to go through that question and say: “you miss your cousin for sure. How difficult for you to be alone”.

That is something that requires more time, but in this way, you go into what Mrs. A. is doing.

When a person suffering from dementia, constantly asks when she is being picked up, while that is not the case at all, you can say:” soon you will be picked up” (you mean that she is brought from her own room to the dining room) or “tomorrow you will be picked up” (to the family for Shabbat or weekend is what you think then).

A piece of clarity can ensure that the question goes away from the person with Dementia. And you are not lying, you are in their world.