Dec 14, 2012

Alzheimer's and Learning to Look Beyond the Obvious

As far as I can tell by reading the comments on the Alzheimer's Reading Room it is common for Alzheimer's patients to say No.

No, to just about everything.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's and Learning to Look Beyond the Obvious
Readers complain, or maybe its called venting, about how their Alzheimer's patients doesn't want to do anything. They ask the patient, would you like to do this or would you like to do that? The patient responds No, and the Alzheimer's caregiver folds up like an accordion.

Frankly, I understand because I did the same thing for years.


It is normal for an Alzheimer's caregiver to accept No when an Alzheimer's patient says No. I mean no means no -- doesn't it?

Not exactly. Not when your brain is not functioning well and you lose your ability to reason. Lose your ability to think broadly and make a decision.

For almost two years Dotty refused to go to the pool. After asking her repeatedly if she wanted to go and hearing her say No, I would give up

Then something happened to me.

I decided we would start living our life the way we always had.

This forced me to start thinking. As part of this process I started doing something I had done all my life. I was forced to think beyond the obvious to understand and get to the bottom of problems or difficult situations. In this case, problems and difficult situations related to Alzheimer's disease.

In this particular case, I knew that Dotty enjoyed going to the pool before she became demented. Her dementia changed the way she thought and reasoned. It really took me a long time to bring this simple understanding into my own -- complete awareness and understanding of Alzheimer's disease.

About 200 times each year for more than a decade, Dotty would walk a long distance to go to the pool around 10:30 AM each day.

Once at the pool she would go in the water and walk around in a circle as she talked to her girlfriends. Next they would get out of the pool, sit around and yak. After two hours she would walk home and have lunch.

I didn't know or realize it, but when I arrived on the scene in Delray Beach to take care of Dotty she had already stopped going to the pool. Too bad someone had not said to me, Bobby your mother has stopped going to the pool something must be wrong. Didn't happen.

Once I looked beyond the obvious it occurred to me that Dotty really didn't mean No when she said she didn't want to go to the pool. What was happening was she had gotten in the habit of saying No, or maybe it was just easier to say No than to think.

I made a video of Dotty and I going to the pool. If you watch you will notice that Dotty repeatedly says No she doesn't want to go to the pool. When we are outside getting in the car she says No. Notice, she is in her bathing suit. At the entrance to the pool she says No. Even when she has her feet in the water she says No, she doesn't want to go into the water.


Go here to watch Dotty goes to the Pool


Once I found my way into Alzheimer's World, I started to learn how to communicate with someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I learned how to use less words, ignore words like NO, and how to use a good positive attitude to convince my Alzheimer's patient to cooperate.

The end result of this cooperative effort is simple.

Dotty is happier and more engaging.

Bobby is happier and a more effective Alzheimer's caregiver.

It is a win win situation folks.

Think. Feel. And don't be afraid to -- Look Beyond the Obvious.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room