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When Your Elderly Parent Starts Lying – What To Do

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We all want to think our parents are infallible – but the truth is, they’re human. And sometimes, as they age, they may start lying. Whether it’s out of fear, forgetfulness, or something else entirely, it can be a tough situation for many family members.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why your aging parent might be lying, as well as how to handle it if it does happen.

Please know that dementia patients or older people with Alzheimer’s disease may not be consciously lying, but instead may simply be confused. You can get the help of professional dementia care if this is the case.

If you think that your elderly parents are exhibiting signs of dementia, it’s important to make a doctor’s appointment to get your elderly person evaluated.

In fact, lying is a classic tell-tale sign of cognitive decline.

As adult children and family caregivers, it can be difficult to accept that our elderly parents are capable of lying. It’s a heartbreaking situation to come to terms with, especially when you care deeply for them.

The best way to begin dealing with this is to try to understand the reasons behind their dishonesty. Knowing why they’re lying and taking steps to address it is key.

The good news is that lying is often a symptom of an underlying issue such as memory loss, depression, or anxiety. It’s important to remember that your elderly parent may not be consciously lying, but instead may simply be confused.

Still, if possible, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and be honest with your elderly parents. Explaining why their actions are wrong, while also being understanding and compassionate, is the best policy.

Acknowledge that it may be difficult for them to admit they’re lying and try not to get angry or judge them harshly. Having a conversation in a non-confrontational way is the best approach.

You should know that if this is a new behavior for your parent, it could be due to a change in their mental state. Mental issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s can cause confusion and lead people to make up stories or tell lies – often unwittingly.

When this is the case, it’s important to talk openly with them about what they’re saying, while being gentle and understanding of their state of mind. You should also talk to their doctor as well.

Why Is My Senior Parent Lying To Me?

It’s normal for adult children to worry about the care of their elderly parents. While it can be difficult to approach an aging parent who may be lying, it’s important to try and understand why they are doing so.

The first thing to consider when your elderly parent starts lying is to recognize what specific situations does the lying occur most often?

Are they afraid of something, or do they have a medical condition that’s causing them to struggle with memory and forget important facts?

It could even be due to health conditions such as dementia or cognitive decline. Knowing the underlying cause can help you approach the conversation in a more effective way.

With the right approach, you can help your parent open up and provide clarity on what’s happening.

It’s a difficult question to ask and one that can be hard to answer. It’s especially concerning when it comes from your senior parent, who has been around long enough to know better than to lie or deceive you.

Unfortunately, it can happen, and there are several possible reasons why they may be lying.

Cognitive Decline

The first possibility is that your senior parent may be lying to you due to memory issues. As we age, our memories can become less reliable and it’s possible for us to forget details or even entire narratives.

This could lead your senior parent to tell a story that isn’t true because they simply don’t remember the facts.

I saw this often when I worked as an Occupational Therapist either in a hospital, assisted living, retirement home, etc.

Protecting You and/or Themselves

Another possibility is that your senior parent may be trying to protect you from something that happened in their past that they’re ashamed of or don’t want you to know about. It could also be that they don’t want to admit a mistake or feel embarrassed about the truth.

They may be trying to hide their struggles with daily tasks like getting dressed or preparing meals, or they might simply want to avoid upsetting family members.

For many older adults, when they begin having trouble performing simple things, they fear that they will have to give up their independence and move into a nursing home. To protect themselves from this, lying can become an act of self-preservation.


Finally, it’s possible your senior parent may just be trying to make a good story sound more interesting or entertaining, which can lead to some embellishments.

In all these cases, it’s important not to confront your parent on the spot but instead talk with them in private and let them know you care about them and want to understand their feelings better.

Acknowledge that you respect their need for privacy and that while they may not be telling you everything, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

At the same time, try to make them understand why it’s important for you to know the truth. Remind your senior parent that even if something happened in their past that they’re not proud of, it doesn’t do anything to diminish your love for them.

It’s important to emphasize that you don’t judge them and that any mistakes they made are in the past; be sure to make it clear that you would never think less of them because of it.

It is important to remember that lying does not necessarily mean dishonesty.

How Do You Deal With An Elderly Parent Who Lies?

Dealing with an elderly parent who lies can be one of the hardest things to deal with. This is true for a professional caregiver, a primary caregiver, or other family members.

The most important thing to remember is to not take it personally and just know that you may not be able to change the behavior. And we all know that no one truly has any control over another person’s behavior.

So, in my experience, when you don’t have control, you simply have to let go of the situation and accept it for what it is.

That being said, there are still some strategies you can use to help manage the situation.

1. Try To Determine and/or Understand Why Your Parent Is Lying.

Understanding your parent’s motivations can help you address the underlying issue and provide a more effective response.

  • Is it a fear of punishment or embarrassment?
  • Does he/she have difficulty recalling past events?
  • Does he/she feel overwhelmed by too many details?
  • Are they fearing a loss of control over their own life?

This is a good time to hire the help of a professional counselor or therapist can help you. That person can help to identify what factors are contributing to the lying and help lay out the next steps to take to help you and your elderly parent.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that lying can be a symptom of age-related cognitive decline and other issues.

The most important thing is to focus on your parent’s feelings. Try to be understanding and patient when dealing with an elderly parent who lies.

2. If They Are Suffering From Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

If your senior parent is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, what you see as a “lie” may actually be “confabulation”.

…most examples of “lying” are dementia symptoms rather than intentional deception. “They’re more like an unconscious defense mechanism,” says Kallmyer. Specifically, it’s called confabulation – unconsciously replacing lost memories with fabrications.

If this is the case then do not confront them about the lie.

When it comes to dealing with a senior parent who lies, it is important to consider the parent’s needs. A little white lie in order to make them feel safe and secure in their environment can be acceptable if it does not cause harm or distress.

It may also be necessary to provide them with distractions so that they don’t become frustrated trying to remember a forgotten detail. It is important to remain compassionate and patient when dealing with your senior parent, as their needs should always come first.

Instead, try to be understanding and patient. It is important to remember that these types of behaviors are due to the disease and are not a sign of emotional abuse or intentional deception.

The idea here is to go along with their storyline. It’s called therapeutic fibbing and it’s highly effective. Think of it as compassionate help.

Therapeutic fibbing is lying, or bending the truth, in order to avoid increased agitation from a person with dementia.

If they need emotional support while dealing with dementia, seek professional help from a qualified therapist who can better understand how to manage their behavior. Additionally, create an environment at home that is supportive and understanding.

Speak to them gently, using simple language, and be aware of their emotional triggers.

3. Talk To Your Parents About Their Lying And Why They Might Be Doing It

If your parent does not have dementia or Alzheimer’s, then you can certainly attempt to have an honest conversation with them about their lies.

While the thought of confronting them can be intimidating and may require a lot of time, doing so is one of the best things you can do for yourself in order to gain clarity and understanding.

With an honest and respectful conversation, you can both come to a better understanding of why your parents feel like deceiving you is the best approach.

They may be lying because they want to protect you from getting hurt, because they want to maintain their authority, or simply because it’s what they grew up with.

It could be a combination of all three; but whatever the reason is, being honest with each other can help bring forth much-needed perspective and create a safe place where you both can talk openly and (hopefully) learn together.

Bottom line: communication is key when it comes to navigating through any family issues, especially those involving trust and honesty.

So take that first step and start talking – eventually, your relationship with your parents will thank you for it! And don’t forget to emphasize the importance of living an honest and healthier life.

4. Find Out If There Are Any Underlying Medical Conditions That Could Be Causing The Lying

Underlying health concerns could be the cause of lying – such as a mental health disorder, neurological issues, etc.

Of course, if your parent has had a history of pathological lying throughout their life, do not expect them to recover from that as they grow older. If anything, it will just get more so.

My years of experience working with older adults show that oftentimes their personality traits become amplified as they get older. I coined this the more so disease”.

I have known elderly parents who will tell one story to their older daughter and then another story to the younger brother. It’s much more common than you may think.

For some elderly adults…

Acting in a controlling or manipulative manner may be a way for them to try and regain that control. Such behavior may be more likely if the senior feels like they cannot talk to you and find a middle ground.

5. Try To Get To The Bottom Of What Your Parents Are Lying About

It can feel like a betrayal to discover your parents have been lying. And as you try to decipher what’s real and what’s not in their stories, it may seem impossible to get to the bottom of it.

To get closer to understanding, try asking thoughtful questions or staying quiet until your parent decides to open up on their own.

By doing so you not only gain insight into why they are lying but also build trust by showing them that you recognize there is a delicate balance between telling the truth and keeping some things private.

Furthermore, if over time, it appears your parents continue using lies easily, take this opportunity to both reflect on what type of family dynamic allows this behavior and initiate conversations about honesty within the family so everyone learns how important being truthful is together.

Ultimately, finding out why your parents are lying can be tricky but necessary; simply listening more closely, asking more deeply, and talking honestly about your different perceptions with each other – without judgment – can go a long way in uncovering the real story behind their deceptions.

6. Decide How You Want To Handle The Situation, Whether It’s Confrontational Or Not

When faced with a difficult situation, it is always important to consider how we want to handle the situation. Should it be confrontational, or should we take a more diplomatic approach?

Every situation is unique and warrants its own careful consideration.

A delicate balance will need to be found between taking a stand for what you believe in and not causing unnecessary conflict. By staying aware of our reactions and emotions, we can work towards finding solutions that are beneficial to everyone involved.

We also need to make sure not to rob other people of their right to disagree with us; respect is paramount in any discussion. A third party, family member, or mediator may be useful.

Ultimately, if handled correctly, confrontation can lead to productive conversations that help build understanding and trust between all parties involved.

With thoughtfulness and courage, we can ensure that disagreements do not result in animosity but instead result in meaningful discussions that further develop our relationships with fellow human beings.

7. Come Up With A Plan To Deal With The Lying Going Forward

Dealing with a liar is never easy, but it’s important to create a plan and establish boundaries for your relationship going forward.

First and foremost, it’s vital to develop an understanding of how lies can be damaging and how they affect both parties.

To promote trusting communication, there needs to be complete transparency – if the other person isn’t willing, to be honest then it may be necessary to define what can and cannot be talked about in order to respect each other’s boundaries.

Furthermore, when figuring out a plan going forward, keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. As long as the person has taken responsibility for their lying behavior and changed their approach towards a greater honesty, forgiveness can play a much-needed role in allowing you both to move on.

Finally, you’ll need to set firm boundaries if necessary – this could involve promising that there will no longer be any secrets between the two of you or simply expressing your discomfort about any repeated lying behaviors.

With clear communication and compassion for one another, coming up with an effective plan will help ensure that both parties trust each other going forwards.

What If You Just Suspect That Your Aging Parents Are Lying?

It can be tricky to navigate when you suspect your aging parents are lying. They may tell little white lies to protect their own pride or even outright lie about certain things that they don’t want you to know.

It can be hard to determine what is truth and what is fiction, especially if you haven’t been able to spend much time with them.

If you are worried that your aging parents may be lying to you, it is important to approach them in a respectful and non-confrontational manner.

Start by asking questions such as “Why do you think this is true?” or “What makes you say that?” These open-ended questions can help provide you with more information and can help you better understand why your parents may be lying.

Another thing to do is to check up on them, if possible. Things like…

  • are they paying their bills on time?
  • check their bank accounts to see if they are unwillingly paying any scammers.
  • follow up on the stories they tell you.

An example might be if your elderly mother says that she has taken the car into the dealership for its regular oil change – you can call the dealership to ensure that has indeed true.

Again, it is important to remember that aging can bring about changes in mental capacity, memory, and cognition. If you suspect that your parent is lying due to cognitive issues, it may be helpful to talk to their doctor for further information or resources.

It can also be beneficial to take a break before continuing the conversation. This gives you time to process your thoughts and feelings while allowing your parent the opportunity to think things over as well.

When you come back to the discussion, try to remain calm and focus on listening intently rather than jumping to conclusions or accusations.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do is, to be honest with your parents. Open up a dialogue about how you feel and express that their lies are making it difficult for you to trust them.

Explain why you need the truth in order to have a safe and trusting relationship. Let them know that if they want this kind of relationship, then lying isn’t an option.

While it’s not easy, it may be the only way to get through this tough situation.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that although your parent may be lying, they are likely doing so out of fear or worry. You should try to keep this in mind and approach the conversation with understanding and kindness.

Although it can be difficult to confront a loved one who is suspected of lying, having an honest dialogue is essential for maintaining trust and respect.

The key is to be respectful and understanding while also making sure that you have all the necessary information.

By taking the time to talk through your suspicions and examine the situation thoughtfully, you can help ensure that your aging parent’s welfare is being taken care of in a way that respects their autonomy and privacy.

15 Helpful Tips On What You Can Do If Your Elderly Parents Are Lying

1. Make sure your elderly parent is physically and mentally healthy. That they go to their doctor’s visits. It would be a good thing for you to be in contact with their doctor as well.

2. Be aware of common triggers for lying in the elderly, including fear, depression and cognitive decline. If you are able to understand why they are lying, it can help you to address the issues causing them.

3. Talk openly and honestly with your elderly parent about the situation. Let them know that you understand their concerns and that you are there to support them no matter what. Make sure they know that it is okay for them to tell you the truth, even if it is difficult.

4. Encourage your elderly parent to express their feelings and thoughts honestly. Tell them that you are available to talk whenever they need to, and remind them that they can trust you with the truth.

5. Acknowledge when your elderly parent tells the truth and let them know how much it means to you. Show your appreciation for their honesty, and let them know that it is okay to tell you things even if they may not be perfect.

6. Do research on the topic of lying in elderly adults and understand why this behavior may happen. Look into the psychological reasons behind it, as well as any underlying medical causes.

7. Stay calm and patient when dealing with your elderly parent’s lying behavior. Remember that this is likely a sign of frustration or confusion, so try not to react harshly or become angry.

8. Reinforce the importance of honesty in your relationship with your elderly parent by setting a good example. Let them know that you value honesty and that it is okay to tell you things even if they may not be perfect.

9. Use questions to gently guide your elderly parent into understanding that their lying behavior is unhelpful. Ask them why they feel the need to lie and help them find better ways of expressing their feelings or handling stressors in their life.

10. Offer reassurance and understanding when your elderly parent is being honest. This may help to encourage honesty in the future and let them know that it is safe to tell you the truth.

11. Provide a sense of structure by creating set daily routines for your elderly parent, especially if they are experiencing memory loss or confusion. Having a daily schedule will help them to remember what is expected of them and can also provide comfort as they know what to expect during the day.

12. Be patient with your elderly parent, even if their lying makes it difficult for you to trust them. Remind yourself that this behavior may be a direct result of their age or health issues and try to respond with understanding and compassion.

13. Address any underlying issues that may be causing your elderly parent to lie, such as fear of being judged or of disappointing you. Talk to them in a calm and non-confrontational manner and express the importance of honesty in your relationship.

14. If their lying is accompanied by other concerning behavior, such as increasing forgetfulness or confusion, bring it up with their doctor to discuss the possibility of dementia.

15. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Caring for an elderly parent can be challenging and stressful, and knowing that you have a support system in place can make a huge difference.

Talk to friends and family about the situation, or look for support groups that can help you through this difficult time.

Remember, above all else, your parent is still the same person you’ve always known – they may just need extra understanding in their later years. Showing patience and unconditional love will go a long way in helping them through challenging times.

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