White lies. Little fibs. In caregiving for a senior relative or your parents, you may have told a few.
The Ethics of Geriatric Fiblets, a recent article on the Moving Mavins blog, tackled the issue head-on, offering three common scenarios where family members withheld the full truth, fabricated reasons for taking a certain course of action, or justified a lie on the grounds of protection. Margit Novack, the author and a veteran senior move manager (read more about these special professionals here), asks tough questions about the ethics surrounding geriatric fiblets, a term that emerged from the 2000 World Alzheimer’s Congress. Per Novack’s article, the Congress defined it as “necessary white lies to redirect loved ones or discourage them from detrimental behavior.”
In her work, Novack found that truth-telling in caregiving, particularly during a senior care transition (i.e. a move to assisted living requiring a massive downsizing effort), isn’t always black and white. Her conclusion? That geriatric fiblets may be appropriate in certain circumstances, and for certain people (professionals versus family members, for example).
Every caregiving situation is unique, as is every individual who is part of a caregiving relationship. Every family must choose for themselves what is best, but truth-telling, even when it’s difficult for the teller or has painful ramifications for the hearer, is ultimately the simplest and most straightforward, without nuances or conditions. Don’t the people we love and care for deserve honesty and full disclosure?
Talk back: Have you ever told a geriatric fiblet?