Lying is a practice I have always avoided. Aside from the fact that I lack a “poker face” (I flush, twitch or display any number of “tells” that inform anyone who’s the tiniest bit observant of my discomfort), lying complicates life to a large extent. My close friends can tell you I’ve always had a better-than-average memory. One of the reasons I’ve been able to keep my thoughts organized is CONSISTENCY.
Lying disrupts consistency. Having to remember what I said to whom would only further complicate my ability to manage the information in my head. And when a lie is repeated often enough, the mind begins to accept it as “reality.” I try to retain as much factual information as I can without muddying the waters any worse than they have been by the ravages of my own advancing age.
The exception to the lying rule, though, is Mom. The one person I have always felt compelled to lie to is my mother, because there are things a parent does not want to know about their child (and vice versa). But this was a protective posture; she simply couldn’t handle the truth (specifically about certain aspects of my life, like the fact that I am a sexually healthy person).
Now that Mom is advancing through dementia, there are times when my husband suggests I just humor her. Lie to her. Yes her to death. But there’s a problem with that. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, dementia does not progress in a linear fashion. There are things she does retain, particularly emotionally charged ideas. And it’s hard enough keeping things straight for myself and for Mom as it is; I have no wish to complicate our relationship any further by saying or suggesting things that she might retain and fixate on.
Every now and then, Mom comes to me and says she wants to go back to Florida. Yesterday, I told her in no uncertain terms that I am not willing to go with her and the next trip I take is going to be a REAL vacation. Bob and I haven’t gone anywhere (with the exception of a few long weekends) for ourselves since 2005. All of our other travels have revolved around helping her. This October is our 20th wedding anniversary and we’re going to Italy to celebrate for 10 days or so.
Mom said she thought we had gone to San Francisco recently. I said no, that was 2005, more than five years ago, She said she could stay in Florida by herself, that she’d “manage” as she had before. I reminded her that the reason she’s here is that she was NOT “managing.” And then I simply told her that she’s not a prisoner. I handed her the phone. “Go ahead. Make some calls. Book your flight. Call for a limo to the airport. I won’t stop you. If you’re competent enough to arrange your own travels, you have my blessing.”
She looked down at the floor and got quiet.
I don’t want to be mean. And I don’t want to lie to her. I want her to be as comfortable and happy as she’s capable of being. But the last thing I want to do is take her back to Florida so she can be reunited with the inescapable fact that her life there is over and her future is in New Jersey with family and a network of caregivers. The truth is painful, but less so than facing the repeated dissolution of the fantasy to which she keeps returning, that she is capable of living an independent life.