Since the beginning of my caregiving days with Hopson, I plotted to solve situations that were beyond my control. I wanted to be as content and peaceful as possible in spite of this terrible tragedy.

The first time I used a lie with Hopson, who didn’t know me because of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, I just knew that Almighty God was going to strike me dead. I had always been taught not to lie – and rightly so. The problem was he kept asking for me even though I was the one holding his hand. It was one of the most complicating behavioral challenges of my caregiving days.

One of my knowledgeable psychologist friends said, “Just tell him that Mary will be back in a minute.” When I protested that that was lying, he said, “Think about it. You are trying to make him peaceful and at this point, that is very important for you and for him.” With reasoning, I decided that it was not a lie that was going to hurt anyone. As a matter of fact, it might help.

At my next opportunity, I told Hopson that Mary would be back soon. He said, “Okay,” and that was the end of that – the end of countless days of his unhappiness and my stress over that problem. When I think of all the days of sadness because he couldn’t find me and my days of frustration trying to convince him that I was me, I marvel that just a few words from me was calming for both of us.

At First Friends, we heartily endorse this, and we call them fiblets. They are not meant for anything but good. We do not use fiblets on those who would recognize it as an untruth but on those who are now into the disease and have behavioral problems that a pill or redirection alone cannot solve. We wholeheartedly endorse it. Our staff and volunteers will vouch for its soothing effect and the solving of some behavioral issues.

Fiblets solved so many of my personal issues as a caregiver. It began to feel surreal, as if it were a world of playacting and disguise most of the time. Sometimes I wondered if I might be losing it because I was on the stage most of the time and often rewriting the script as events and behaviors changed.

Some of my best memories of playacting with Hopson would be all the times we came from the garage into the house after a day out. I would have him hooked on my arm to prevent any falls, and he would issue the old call we had between us, “Yoo-Hoo Mary?” Of course, she didn’t answer because Mary had him on her arm. As soon as the call went out, I would excuse myself for some “made up” reason and hurry into a little space by the hall where he would be approaching and I would be unseen. When I heard his nearing shuffling footsteps, I would step out and say, “Hi, honey. I’ve missed you so much today.” Then he would know me and exclaim and hug me joyfully. We would enjoy a grand reunion that would last for a little while. Serendipity! It was so meaningful for both of us.

Then there was the time I landed the B-27 in the den better than anyone he had ever seen. (He was a tower operator on Guam and Okinawa during World War II.) I just told him, “That’s something I do all of the time.” There was also the time I removed the whale from the pool, and he thought I resembled Joan of Arc. (It was a small animal that had become sick on the chlorine and was so glad when I got him out). I just told Hopson how proud I was to do it for him.

Recently we coaxed a caregiver to use a fiblet for a situation that was otherwise out of her control. It worked so well that she branched out to other perplexing situations where a fib would be just the thing to solve it. Actually I believe she is the fiblet queen of our town at the moment – next to me, of course.

While telling a fiblet may go against the honest nature of caregivers, the peace and happiness these fiblets give make them so worth it. Bringing a smile and peace to those we love, while also bringing us a moment of calm and relief knowing our loved ones are content is what we live for daily.

Why don’t you try it?

Mary Nell Dorris is the executive director of First Friends in Amory.

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