I have a set of three questions I ask myself when I need to have a difficult conversation with someone. They are also the same set of questions I determine what kind of person it is I’m in conversation with. If I can answer “yes” to all three questions, then the conversation moves forward. If I answer “no” to any one of the three questions, I do not move forward.
The questions are: Is it kind? Is it necessary? And, will the information change the outcome for the better? If someone feels they need to discuss something sensitive with me, something they feel I’ve done “to” them, I keep these three questions in mind. They are helpful to determine whether this is valid and genuine, or if I’m being manipulated, bullied, or disrespected unduly. The latter becomes pretty apparent right out of the race-gate.
I also have three questions I ask myself when I am dealing with Mom and this disease to determine if she is safe, calm, and happy. The questions are, does this situation, or does what I say and do keep Mom 1) safe, 2) calm, and happy? In the case of Alzheimer’s, not all can be present at the same time, and I would say that most times they are not present at the same time.
This is a mixed box of chocolates I know, because something that will keep Mom safe, may not necessarily keep her calm or happy. That is why, for me, safety is first, then calm, then happy, always in that order.
Having to pull Mom’s driving privileges, for instance, or having to hire in-home help, or having to move her to Assisted Living to keep her (and others) safe, did not make her calm or happy.
Compassionate misinformation, i.e., bending the truth some, always relates to Mom’s safety, or being calm and happy.
Saying we will go for ice cream, but taking her to the doctor’s office, got her in the car and into the doctor’s office. Yes, afterwards we went for ice cream. By the way, have you ever tried to eat an ice cream cone in the car with three huge, shedding dogs, who all want an ice cream cone of their own? Mom and I laughed so hard at our efforts to keep the dog hair from sticking to the ice cream, we finally gave up and gave the dogs our cones. They were thrilled.
Probably a good time to say (once again) that ‘compassionate misinformation’ is not about bending the truth to cover one’s own ass.
There are some who do not use ‘compassionate misinformation’ responsibly or they misuse it for personal gain. My past Blog, “Don’t Bullshit a Bullshitter” gives examples of this kind of fraudulence. This kind of fibbing says more about their character, or lack thereof, and that is on them. This is very different than having the integrity to BE compassionate and handle our loved one in a way that is fair, respectful, and appropriate.
I trust you know the difference. You are the ones I am writing to. You are the ones who have character and discernment to know better, and I know you navigate with integrity when it comes to managing our loved one.
If you are still unsure and foggy about when and how to use ‘compassionate misinformation,’ don’t fret, you’ll find the right, precise time to jump in to that double jump-rope game on the playground. This concept was totally foreign to me 7 years ago. If you have a moment, go into the “archive blogs” to “50 Little White Lies.” It’s a brief, quick blog that is a great example of responsible, compassionate fibbing.
No question this is a difficult dance of intuitive acumen. You must know where your loved one IS with this disease, what progression stage they are at, to use these tools of bending the truth, asking whether what you are saying or doing is keeping them safe, calm and happy, effectively. My humble opinion is when our loved one reaches stage 3 or 4 or beyond.
Obtaining specific ideas on how to handle a situation can be found in an Alzheimer’s or Dementia class or Support Group, or books I’ve listed in “Resources” within this site, and, as time progresses and membership grows, I am confident more ideas will be offered and talked about in the search engine of the Q & A section of this website as well.
What Is True For Me: 1) Is it kind, 2) Is it necessary, and 3) Will it change the outcome for the better, always helps me determine whether to have an important conversation or not with friends, family, co-workers, bosses, etc.
With regards to Alzheimer’s, does the situation, or does what I say and do keep them 1) safe, 2) calm, and happy, helps me determine the right path to take. If we keep in mind these sets of questions with Mom or a friend, and there are tears, or the road is bumpy, or the situation becomes murky, I just breathe, sit patiently and speak softly. The murky sediment will settle. The tears will dry. The road will get repaved.
In my experience, the difficult conversation and overall situation will have reached a better outcome.