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Lies and dolls

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths; are mine the same as yours? – Andrew Lloyd Webber, from Jesus Christ Superstar, trial before Pilate

I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable when I see an elderly lady with dementia cradling a doll. And when I was nursing, it did not sit well with me to ‘fib’ to people with dementia about ‘when they would be going home’ or ‘when their husband was coming back’.

With the little bit of wisdom that comes with age and experience, I now understand that my discomfort is about how I feel when I know I’m being lied to, or being treated like a child – for adults with normal mental capacity, such things are indeed inapproriate and demeaning.

So on the question of dolls, I think: many people of religious faith use ‘props’ – rosaries, phylacteries and the like – as a focus for their spirituality, so why shouldn’t people use dolls as a focus for their feelings?

Justifying the support of a mistaken belief (such as someone’s spouse is still alive) is a little more tricky; I know there are innumerable conversational ploys to avoid such issues; this is called ‘distraction’ but it could equally be called ‘obfuscation’ or ‘dissembling’ – more devious demonstrations of dishonesty. But truth goes out of the window in so many aspects of human existence that I think we are being a little precious, and perhaps a little insensitive, if we cannot sometimes go along with the perceived reality of those we care for and try to provide with emotional support.

It can be a tough call, but by developing sincere relationships, friendships in fact, good care workers can be both honest and supportive: it’s why they are worth so much more than they are generally paid.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

One Reply to “Lies and dolls”

  1. You’re so right, Geoff. Good care is genuine relationships and friendship not institutionalised “treatment”. It’s socially acceptable for us to make babies of pets but less comfortable when an adult believes a doll is a real baby. But we suspend disbelief in so many areas of our lives – tv, games, religion, or simply our everyday thoughts and imagination – that it’s not beyond our human ability to enter other people’s very real imagination. We do it all the time with the people we love and care about. It’s the difference between being WITH and doing to.

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