She Had Dementia and Kept Asking About Her Long-Dead Pets, but Her Father and Sister Couldn’t Agree on Whether Honesty or White Lies Were Kindest

A woman recently wrote about a difficult moral dilemma she faced with her family. Her sister has permanent dementia and often asks about her dead pets. Their father feels they should tell her the truth, even if that means upsetting and traumatizing his daughter.

Facility bound

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The woman wrote, “My 47-year-old sister is in a facility with permanent dementia.”

Daily call

They Call You When They_re Going To Be Late
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“She calls every day wanting to know one of three things,” she added. “Where are you? Why won’t they let me leave? How are my pets?”

Shifting stories

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Her sister isn’t always sure what year it is. Sometimes, the stories change based on what was happening with her pets at the time.

Talking her down

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When her sister is angry or upset, the nurses call the woman to see if she can help calm her down. To help give her peace of mind, the woman will often tell her that she’s on her way to the facility and that she has the pets with her.

White lie

lies
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The woman knows that it’s a white lie, but she reasons that it gives her sister comfort and that she forgets about it soon after. However, her father has become uncomfortable with the situation.

Truth hurts

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Her father is in his 70s. On a recent visit, his daughter asked about her pets, and her father told her they were dead. She was devastated and acted as if she had heard about this for the first time.

Reliving the trauma

Trauma Dumping
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The woman feels like by telling her sister the truth, they are making her relive the trauma. It’s a difficult moral dilemma.

Moral question

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The woman and her father have talked about the tricky moral situation of lying to their family members. They are on different sides of the debate. The woman believes that it’s cruel to be honest in this situation. She wants her sister to be happy, even if it means lying to her.

Her father’s side

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She doesn’t quite understand her father’s side of the matter. She suspects that he would not like to be lied to if he were in a similar spot. She does acknowledge that lying to someone who is vulnerable and reliant on your support is bad. But the situation is very complex.

What should they do?

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The woman is positive that honesty is not the best policy in this particular case. However, her father’s thoughts on the matter gave her pause. She reached out to an online forum to ask for advice on how they should deal with the situation.

The internet responded

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One poster said, “Your dad is hurting her. He needs to accept that who she once was is gone; she’ll never remember things properly again, and telling her the truth will never lead to her developing as a person.”

While another declared, “Your sister is lost in time. There’s no need to make her relive deep grief over and over. Telling her that the pets are safe is reassuring to her and keeps her calm. This is kindness, not something to be ashamed of. Your dad is 100% wrong about telling her the truth.”

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