The slide into dementia is slow and painful, for those suffering directly and the loved ones on the periphery who must provide care while watching a trove of memories gradually erode. Patient care works inside this delicate balance, but going against the wishes of theAlzheimer’s Society
, nearly all nurses
in a recent survey reported telling the occasional white lie to avoid patient bereavement.
The ethics of such a practice are slippery. Memories keep people anchored in the shared reality of family members, friends, and even their conceptions of themselves. When anurse
is asked about a family member who has been dead for years, she must negotiate a thin moral line: Does she tell a small lie to pacify the patient, or tell a potentially devastating truth? What if the scenario takes place on a regular basis?