By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
The word "we" has a nice ring to it. "We" is a word of inclusion.
Which sounds better, the word "WE" or the word "YOU".
How many time a day do you say the word "we". How many times do you say the word "you". Think about it. Count for a week. I am serious.
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I am sitting here thinking of all the times I wrote up a suggestion on how an Alzheimer's caregiver might accomplish a goal with an Alzheimer's patient. I'll now write a note to myself to remember to use the word suggestion more frequently. Suggest.
I am no longer surprised when I write up one of my suggestions and pretty quick someone will tell me it won't work for them. The them being a "Me" when they write it up. It won't work for "me." Another two letter word.
My general rule of thumb is that once you start trying something you have two do it for 19 days, or 19 times. After 19 times, it is time for a "tweak" or maybe a new plan.
It is my belief that it takes 19 days to introduce change into your life. Those are usually 19 days of hard work, persistence, and determination. Want to lose weight, stop smoking, learn how to use the word "we" effectively. Do it on the 19 day plan. Complete focus and determination for 19 days. Day 20? Get back to me.
My point here is that in order to establish a pattern of behavior you have to do it over and over. Not just a few times and then after a week conclude it won't work. Not just every once in a while then conclude it won't work. You have to be determined. You have to have a plan.
By the way, it is one thing to try and establish a pattern with an Alzheimer's patient, its another thing to establish a pattern within the Alzheimer's caregiver.
So you have to do it for 19 days before you can even start to think you are getting effective at doing just about anything. There are two things going on in Alzheimer's caregiving. The pattern with-out (the patient), and the pattern with-in (the caregiver).
Now to the word "we".
Like many of you I couldn't get Dotty to do anything way back near the beginning of this long Alzheimer's journey.
Typically it would go like this.
Dotty, do you want to go to the barbecue tomorrow? Answer, NO.
It didn't matter to Dotty that she had gone to a fourth of July barbecue for about 85 years in a row. So the argument, Dotty, you love the fourth of July barbecue; or, Dotty you went the last 85 years in a row just wasn't going to work. Trying to convince Dotty based on past history just doesn't work.
Dotty's standard answer for everything is, NO, I am not going. By they way, that is still her stock answer. Don't get me wrong. Dotty will say Yes. Dotty will say yes to ice cream, an egg, or potato chips.
After scratching my head for a few years I came up with a plan. I decided that "I" would "C" if I started using the word "WE" over and over if it would have an impact on Dotty. If it would have a positive impact on the Alzheimer's caregiving effort.
So I started practicing the use of the word "we".
This applied to anything we might be doing like going to the pool, doctor's office, or a "party". It also dawned on me that it might be more effective if I started getting Dotty "mentally prepared" a day, or more, in advance for anything we might be doing.
So it went like this.
July 3. Tomorrow we are going to the barbecue. Dotty, NO, I am not going. If we go we can get some potato chips and a hamburger. Dotty thinks about it, still says NO, I am not going. Every couple of hours on July 3rd, I remind Dotty, "we" are going.
July 4. First thing in the morning, Dotty, its the fourth of July, big barbecue, burger and chips, we are going this afternoon. NO, I'm not going. I continue this throughout the day. We, We, We, We.
Now here is a very important point. I didn't srping the event on Dotty when it was near the time to leave. I tried to embed the idea in her head that we were going well in advance.
I never asked Dotty, "do you want to go to the fourth of July barbecue". I know the answer to that question and all the follow ups like, "you can't tell me what to do".
So its Dotty, WE are going, then add in something like potato chips. The potato chips are the hook. The last thing you say should be the hook.
When its time, I say, Dotty we need to get ready for the barbecue as I stick out my hand palm up. I suggest that she go first and then I'll go second. The shower. See, we are going to take a shower.
Dotty mostly says No all the way there. Then she starts scarfing down on potato chips and gets that happy look on her face.
This methodology works if you use it over and over. For the doctor, trip to store, etc. Start at least a day in advance. Try to embed the idea in the brain.
Quick question. Which sounds better. YOU have to go to the doctor tomorrow. Or, we are going to the doctor tomorrow. Maybe I should have used the word "dentist" in this example.
In conclusion. Many of you tell me your Alzheimer's patient sticks to you like glue. Follows you around. Wants to know where you are when they can't see you. Wants to know where you went, and when you will be back.
Well that was my observation. Dotty was stuck to me like glue. So I decided if that was the case, "I" would "C" if the power of "WE" would work for "US".
Okay, that is my suggestion. It is now up to you to decide. You have anything better to do?
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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room