Many Alzheimer's caregivers accept the word "No" from the deeply forgetful without ever trying to figure out why they do it.
By Bob De Marco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
S/he says no all the time, the caregiver complains.
It is very common for a person that is deeply forgetful to say "no" when you ask them to do something. I don't know why, but it seems like this is a secret to many in the dementia community even though this is a common occurrence.
Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room
I knew for a long time when Dotty said "no" she didn't mean it. Nevertheless, it still drove me crazy, and often made me feel frustrated or angry. Then one day Dotty explained to me why the deeply forgetful say "no" so often.
Here is the background. Dotty and I went to the pool late in the afternoon on a hot summer day. We were the only two people at the pool. I said to Dotty, lets go in the pool. She said, "no".
I explained to her how much we would enjoy it, how much she use to enjoy going into the pool, and another ten reasons why it would be good to go in the pool.
Key word so far, explained.
Trying to explain the reasons to do something to a person who is deeply forgetful does not work well.
I became so frustrated I said to Dotty, lets go home. When we arrived at the gate to the pool Dotty asked me,
why didn't we go in the water?
"because you didn't want to".
Dotty gave me a look that said, "what the heck are you talking about".
I then said, I asked you if you wanted to go in several times and you said "no", repeatedly. Dotty looked at me and said,
"you know Bobby when I say NO that doesn't mean anything, its just the easiest thing to say".
Later I gave this some considerable thought and realized,
you can learn from the deeply forgetful if you listen.
When this happened I also realized that if you forget that a person is deeply forgetful and treat them the way you would treat a person in the real world, it is very likely that you will get very frustrated and spend a lot of time "venting".
On the other hand, if you take one giant step to the left and move into Alzheimer's World, you will begin to ask yourself, why does a person living with dementia say "no" so often.
You might then begin to learn that you are the problem. That is right,
you are the problem.
That sounds a bit harsh I admit.
If might be as simple as this. Maybe you are talking too fast, so the person that is deeply forgetful can't absorb all the information you are giving them.
So they say "no".
How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia
For example. When you are explaining to a person who is deeply how much fun that are going to have at the fourth of July picnic maybe they are hearing something very different. Maybe they are thinking you want to take them to a place where there will be a lot of people they don't know. Maybe they don't like the idea of being around a lot of people they don't know. So, they say the easiest word they know how to say, "NO".
Think of it this way. Wouldn't a person who wasn't demented ask questions like who is going to be there? Do we need to take anything with us?
So, when a person who is deeply forgetful says "no" ask yourself this. Are they asking you questions, before they say "no"? Or, do they explain the reasons to you why they are saying "no"? It is unlikely.
Most likely they give you an abrupt "no", and won't be able to explain why if you waste your time asking. All of this also applies to things like taking a shower, or brushing teeth. You have to figure out why the person is saying "no".
Here is a tip. Say less. Stick out your hand and lead. Become a guide, not a boss.
When it comes to the shower, I always use the "hook". I don't say, "lets take a shower". I say, "lets take a shower and then we will get something to eat".
Dotty might only hear the last part and assume -- she is going to get something "good" to eat, and the shower is only a step in the process.
In Alzheimer's World it is always best to look for the solution to problems by "looking at it from the perspective" of the person who is deeply forgetful.
Pretty soon you will accept that they are deeply forgetful and most of the stuff that is driving you crazy will become the normal, the natural.
You'll know you made it when you start to chuckle at yourself, or laugh as you tell a friend a story, instead of "venting".
To summarize. Become a guide and not a boss. And, please remember Dotty's words of wisdom
No is just the easiest word to say.
How to Test Your Memory
Alzheimer's Caregiving, It's All in the Palm of Your Hand
Are Alzheimer's Caregivers the Forgotten?
10 Great Alzheimer's Keyword Searches
Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.