Better to Lie

Last month the New Yorker had an article about caring for elders. In particular it talks about something called compassionate deception. For example, if an elder keeps asking about their deceased spouse, rather than keep reminding them that their spouse is gone, they would tell them they’ve just gone out and will return later.

The article is way more complex than I’m making it sound, it’s worth reading.

Part of the article discusses the idea that lying to elders is unethical and that even with the cognitive issues, it’s better to be honest with them.

I think by the end it seems clear that it depends on the elder and the person who is helping them. But in my mind I always assumed it made more sense to lie — they aren’t malicious lies. Who wants to remind someone over and over that their spouse is gone? But I can see the other side of it although given the choice I’m always going to say whatever brings the elder the most comfort.

And I’d like the same for me when it’s my turn.

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