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By Phyllis DeLaricheliere

We have all had them, kept them, or at least attempted to. Secrets are as unique as a snowflake and as personalized as those keeping them.  A secret; (Noun) is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.[1]

So very often when our loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia we first contemplate what we are going to do. Even though there is so much information around us, we feel completely at a loss and frightened of what lies ahead. Next, a lot of us decide as we try to figure all this out, to keep it to ourselves for a while, and not tell our friends and family. At times denying the truth can be easier than accepting it and facing the stigma that comes along with Alzheimer’s is something you are not ready for.  So, you keep it a secret.

But keeping secrets is hazardous to your health. Let me explain.  First, keeping a secret immediately establishes a goal that has been set.  The goal is to keep THE SECRET. With any goal we set, we constantly are thinking about it and making sure it stays on our radar. However, in this case, the goal of keeping a secret is not only stressful – because we are constantly reminded that we have a secret – but we are reminded we are hiding something from others.  This stress can cause anxiety and even depression – both hazards to our mental and physical health.  Now some secrets are ok because they have a short life span, and the goal is reached quickly, such as keeping a surprise birthday party a secret, for example.

Let’s explore this even further.  We are wired to tell the truth. The “Logical Lobe” signals other regions of the brain to share information so it can move on to more important functions, like learning, according to Gina Roberts-Grey. [2]  Therefore, keeping a secret goes against how our brain naturally functions, resulting in our brain becoming stressed. Our brain will then produce more stress hormones (cortisol) that respond to the fight-or-flight reaction, triggered by feelings of anxiety/fear as a result of keeping a secret. Too much cortisol can present serious consequences such as impacting our blood pressure, gastrointestinal tract, and our memory.

Alzheimer’s/dementia patients should never be a secret.  Your loved one is fighting a battle and you need to be strong and healthy for them and yourself.  There is safety and strength in numbers, so tell your family, friends, and seek the support, love and advice from anyone and everyone you can. This is a better goal to set. There is no shame in what you as a caregiver are facing.  It takes a village.  And “The Truth Will Set You Free!”

If you have a question, or want to suggest a topic….  Email me at knowyourhippie@gmail.com.
About the Author
Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS is a sought after speaker/educator and is getting ready to publish her book:  “Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie.” Her passion for finding solutions to the Dementia epidemic has turned into a crusade and she is humbled to be able to touch so many caregivers out there that she respects so much. To book her for a lecture or get on her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com or call 802-999-7503.

This article is reprinted from the February 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News. Phyllis Delaricheliere writes a monthly column for the South Shore Senior News, “Ask the Hippie.” Her columns have earned her an Award of Excellence from the National Association of Mature Publishers. 

[1]Merriam-Webster; 2019
[2]Roberts-Grey, Gina, “Keeping Secrets can be Hazardous to your Health”; Next Avenue, October,2013.