Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

The Use of Deception in Interpersonal Communication with Alzheimer's Disease Patients

Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

The Use of Deception in Interpersonal Communication with Alzheimer's Disease Patients

Article excerpt


We have all been taught to tell the truth; to live honestly and with integrity. Honesty is a message prevalent in American society, from the "George Washington and the Cherry Tree" tale to one of the fundamental biblical commandments "Thou Shalt Not Lie." However, as Miller and Stiff point out, societal messages on deception are inconsistent (1993). The cherry tree tale for example is a myth itself. Some individuals take an absolutist stance on honesty, contending that deception is not acceptable in interpersonal communication. However this stance often ignores the feelings of others.

Grice (1975) developed fundamental maxims of human conversation. One such maxim is quality, which states that communicators are expected to convey truth. There are some instances however, that pose a dilemma for communicators. Is it always the ethical best decision to tell the absolute truth? Philosophers state that values can often be competing. One philosopher, Berlin (1969), offers value pluralism to address this concept. Ethical analyses show that there are many values that can be equally correct and fundamental, yet be in conflict with each other (Berlin, 1969). This study examines how individuals respond to unanticipated violations of social norms and expectations, and the moral and ethical dilemmas associated. More specifically, the study explores the ways that dementia and Alzheimer's disease family members and caregivers have used deception in interpersonal communication while caregiving.

Caregiving is described as the act of providing physical, psychological, and emotional support to another individual. Often, a caregiver is an unpaid family member, neighbor, or friend. A professional care provider is an individual providing care services for a paid wage. According to the Alzheimer's Association (2014), 15.7 million caregivers provided unpaid care totaling almost 18 billion hours in the U.S., valued at over $217 billion (2014). Women are more likely to provide unpaid care and are more likely to experience negative workplace consequences (AA, 2014). Approximately 19 percent of female caregivers reported having to quit work to provide Alzheimer's care or due to the burden of caregiving duties (AA, 2014). More than half of all dementia and Alzheimer's caregivers report emotional stress as "high or very high," almost 40 percent suffer from depression; and share that the physical and emotional costs of caregiving equate to $9.7 billion in health care costs of their own (AA, 2015).

Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a general term for symptoms of decline in mental ability that interfere with a person's daily activities (AA, 2015). Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia. It is the most common form, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Symptoms are exhibited in memory, thinking, and behavior. It is identified by memory and intellectual ability loss that interferes with daily activities. It is a progressive disease. It will never get better. There is no cure. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease (AA, 2014) and over 46 million people are living with dementia worldwide (ADI, 2015). Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. (AA, 2014). In the late stages of the disease progression, individuals lose the ability to engage in conversation and respond to environmental stimuli (AA, 2015). With improvements in health care over the last century, people are living longer (ADI, 2015). This is creating a growing need for aging care. By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer's and dementia care in the U.S. is estimated to grow to $1.1 trillion (AA, 2015). As a lack of care facilities emerges and the costs grow beyond resources, family members and spouses are taking more ownership in the caregiving process. However, many are not trained or prepared for the challenges they will face.

Initial Overview on Caregiving Techniques

Often dementia sufferers lose touch with time. …

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