Community Stories/News

What Are Fiblets? by Mary Bates, MS, CT

The Morrison Communities which provides excellent dementia care for families in New Hampshire and Vermont uses an Alzheimer’s Association method called Habilitation Therapy — practical techniques or strategies that focus on strengths and abilities, and engage people living with dementia where they are rather than where we’d like them to be, says Memory Care Community Director and Certified Dementia Practitioner Mary Bates, MS, CT.

The word “habilitate” means “to make capable.” Using the Habilitation Therapy approach is a positive way to care for the person living with dementia when often it can feel as if there is nothing at all positive about the situation.

Strategy: “Fiblets” is a tool that is easy to use and reassuring for the person with dementia. For instance, many times a family will say, “I can’t lie to Mom.” The family member wants their loved one to respond as if they are in the family’s world, but the family needs to invert this thinking and enter the world of the person living with dementia, Mary explains.

“Fiblets are not out and out lies, but small stretches of the truth to help the person living with dementia to feel better,” she says. “It’s a bending of the truth to fit into the person living with dementia’s reality. And as the disease progresses, reality changes.”

For example, when an elderly person asks if we have seen their mother, we are not lying when we answer that, “No, we have not seen your mother.” Rather than re-orient the person to the often-heartbreaking news that their mother has died, we enter into the person’s reality and reassure them that if we do see their mother, we will let them know. This kind of response often helps to ease the tension and anxiety that otherwise builds when trying to explain “reality” to someone living with dementia.

The objective of a fiblet is to keep the person calm, maintain safety, and NOT to focus on keeping the person in the here and now. Successful fiblets are believable, they validate the person’s feelings, and they provide empathy. Using a believable fiblet helps to reduce anxiety, stress and fear. Knowing the person is key and involves learning their history, their likes and dislikes, their interests, abilities and preferences.

In another example, say your dad, who is 80, goes around telling everyone he is 35. Rather than trying to convince him of his actual age, you would say something like, “Wow, you’re looking good for your age, Dad,” which offers affirmation and reassurance. “It does Dad no good if his family argues with him or keeps telling him that he is eighty,” says Bates. “Fiblets can really help a family gain an understanding of where their loved one is in their process, and it helps to explain their behavior.”

Fiblets remind us that being right is not as important as reassuring and comforting a loved one. The strategies employed in Habilitation Therapy help families develop tools to communicate with their loved ones as their personalities, abilities and desires change and diminish.

Mary Bates, MS, CT is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.

Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column. Learn more about Summit by Morrison at

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