Ask Miriam – August 2022

Published On: August 2nd, 2022Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

My husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s along with various other chronic conditions such as extreme hearing loss and hemiparesis (weakness on one side of his body) from stroke. Since moving to assisted living, we are doing better. No more falls. More routine social contacts. He doesn’t know he has Alzheimer’s disease. The question is: is it wrong for me not to tell him? I’m afraid it will make him depressed, and he won’t understand anyway. He is mostly happy and loving right now. He had also legally put me in charge of all decisions because it was easier. I’m not sure what is best for him and what is ethical.

—Questioning

Dear Questioning,

Thank you so much for reaching out. It sounds like you and your husband are in good place right now, and that his spirits are high.

While it is important for someone with dementia to have the diagnosis explained to them initially, particularly in the early stages when a person has a higher level of cognitive functioning, there is no need to keep repeating information that is painful or distressing. People with dementia may not be able to process or retain the fact that they have Alzheimer’s disease, and hearing about it over and over could be upsetting.

When making decisions such as whether to tell him about his diagnosis, remember that the important thing is so ensure his peace of mind and well-being. If he does ask questions about why he doesn’t remember, or what’s wrong with him, you may want to try out some different responses. For example, you can change the topic of conversation, distract him with activities or foods that he enjoys, or let him know that you and he will talk about it “later.”

Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging in many ways. Make sure to get regular breaks and participate in some of the things that you like to do, whether with friends or on your own. You may also want to consider joining a support group where you can share your experiences with and learn from other caregivers also going through it.

For more information about whether or how to tell a person that they have Alzheimer’s, or other questions about caring for someone with dementia, please call the Alzheimer’s Los Angeles Helpline at 844-435-7259, or view our caregiver tip videos for helpful suggestions.

Best,
Miriam

Questions for Miriam can be sent to askmiriam@alzla.org.

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