A TV pastor recently said, “White lies don’t exist. A lie is a lie, and deception is always wrong. Tell the whole truth.”
While I understood what he was trying to teach, I wondered—does he have any loved ones with Alzheimer’s?
One of the struggles my siblings and I now face is that we sometimes have to tell Mom an almost-lie. It feels like deception and in the black and white world of that TV preacher, it probably is.
But the entire truth sounds like a cruel answer to a simple question. For example, every day and many times a day, Mom asks, “When can I go home?”
The absolute truth is, “You’re not going home, Mom—ever. You’re going to stay here in assisted living until Alzheimer’s steals the rest of your brain and you end up in the nursing home. The next stop after that is the cemetery, but your spirit will be in heaven with Dad and Jesus, so you won’t care.”
The almost-lie is, “Maybe in two weeks you can go home, Mom, depending on what the doctor says.” Then after two weeks, the answer is still, “Maybe in two weeks.” And two weeks after that…ditto.
Thus, two weeks becomes a month which becomes 12 months and a year, which is the scenario for the Alzheimer’s patient.
We have learned that the kindest way to respond to Mom is to tell her the same almost-lie every day. Since time and space have disappeared, she accepts these answers and seems more peaceful.
Helping mom through this stage of her disease means not telling her the entire brutal truth, but trying to create a temporary world she can somehow accept.
But inside my gut, it still feels like a lie.
With Alzheimer’s, the borders of the black and white box fade. Grey is also a color and for now, that’s where we live.
In the end, the truth will finally be revealed. Then we’ll stand on the hope that both God and Mom will forgive us.