Dec 9, 2014

The Alzheimer's Yakker - Joanne

"More there" is a good thing, and Joanne knows how to get it.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

More There is a Good Thing

I wrote this article many years ago. I am bringing it back up today because it illustrates how if you talk to a person living with Alzheimer's in the same way you did before the diagnosis they will turn back into that person.

This article might also help members of your family, or friends, understand that you can talk to a person living with Alzheimer's and you should not be fearful.

Listening from afar (in another room) to Joanne and Dotty was like being in a "wayback" machine.

Joanne talked to Dotty in the same way she had 10, 20, 30 years ago. They talked about great grand kids which delighted Dotty. They talked about friends, cousins, and picnics. They even talked seamlessly about stuff that no longer existed. My sister, Joanne, just went with the flow.

Joanne was no different than any other person that gets "freaked out" when they learn about a diagnosis of dementia.

How do I talk to her they ask?

My response, the same way you always did. Just slow it down and smile a lot.

Yakking (talking) helps a person living with dementia to live and thrive. It keeps them right here in the present.

If you can find your own "yakker" and get them to come over  and talk here is what is going to happen. The person living with dementia is going to be happier and more alive. More there.

Here is another important benefit.

You are going to have a better day.

That's right. Why? Because the attitude of your loved on is going to improve and this is going to make it easier for you to get through the day. Those moody moody times will be diminished.

If you can't find someone to do it in person,have them call. Daily.

Night time calls, by the way,  can improve the attitude and behavior of your loved. Night time can be difficult for person living with dementia.

When Dotty would get unruly and depressed at night I would get Joanne to call her.

Walla, instantaneous mood change from the word go. I might add that I would give Dotty some ice cream after she talked to Joanne. That was designed to reinforce the positive.

This brings us to the Alzheimer's Yakker. A person who somehow can just yak away with a person living with Alzheimer's disease.

Yak, to talk persistently, to chat.


Well this Alzheimer's Yakker is none other than my sister Joanne.

Joanne came to visit us last week. If I didn't know better, I would have thought it was 20 years ago.

And there they were, Joanne and Dotty out in the kitchen yakking away. Yaking, Yaking, Yaking. Of course we had the occasional, Where's Bobby, or, Bobby where are you?

With persons living with Alzheimer's you might be out of sight, but you are rarely out of mind.

I listen in and Joanne and Dotty are yaking away about just about everything under the sun. They talk about the little boy (Ryan, Dotty's great grandson), and the little girl (Kaitlin, Dotty's great granddaughter). Joanne is the grandmother in this story.

They look at pictures and just yak away. Joanne tells Dotty what is going on with the "kids" and they just yak away.

Sometimes it gets interesting. Like when Dotty asks Joanne if she can get the Volkswagen started. Volkswagen? You mean the car that was last seen in 1982? Where did that come from. Dotty never asked me about the VW.

Of course, when Joanne wants something Dotty volunteers to jump in the car and go get it. Just like in the old days. Dotty proceeds to tell us she can drive and goes to the store all the time. Joanne and I look at each other and laugh. Dotty doesn't seem to mind at all.

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If you get her in the right mind set, Dotty is very entertaining.

Here is the best part. Joanne just sits there and yaks with Dotty. Just like in the old days. She doesn't get bent out of shape when Dotty begins to tell a tall tale that has nothing to do with current day reality. They just yak away about the topic.

Joanne is well past the point where Dotty's tall tales bend her out of shape, or make her feel sad and disconcerted. They once did.

I think they continue to fascinate Joanne though.

Dotty doesn't tell me the same kinds of tall tales she tells Joanne or other people. Something triggers off stuff like the VW.

Joanne helped me to learn that I could ask Dotty questions about the past without fear. My oh my the conversation we have are often fascinating and sometimes enlightening.

I think Joanne should hang out a shingle. She should hire out her talent and talk to Alzheimer's patients. I can tell you, Dotty really looks calm, cool, and collected when she talks to Joanne. She looks a lot like the 75 year old Dotty (Dotty is 95 years old).

When Joanne talks to Dotty gets happy and looks happy.

Dotty is clearly  "more there".

"More there" is a good thing, and Joanne knows how to get it.


Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 4,970 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room