Apr 7, 2010

Is It a Compliment to the Caregiver When the Alzheimer's Patient Says, "No"?

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Is It a Compliment to the Caregiver When the Alzheimer's Patient Says,

Upon reading Bob’s article about his mom’s visit to the hairdresser, I was particularly interested in the scene where his mom tells him “No” to the haircut and then goes off with the hairdresser for her haircut.

I was reminded of the many times that Great Grams said “No” to her family members about many, many things. In particular, Great Grams would say “No” to the idea of taking her shower. She would always say she just took a shower. However, once we got a Home Health Aide to come and help with her shower, she would dutifully march upstairs and meekly obey the Home Health Aide.

This makes me wonder what the thoughts behind the “No” response might be. Why would she say “No” to family members, but obey near-strangers?

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Could it be that “No” means “I’m not comfortable with this”, or “I’m afraid”? Great Grams was always afraid. But, I can understand how frightening many things might seem to any Alzheimer’s patient.

But, then why do the Alzheimer’s patients then march off, dutifully, with others? Maybe, they have the courage to express their “No” fears to the people that they trust, but don’t dare express those fears to others. Maybe they “obey” others because they are too fearful to resist.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am interested to hear if others experience this same phenomenon. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the Alzheimer’s patient only obeyed the person they trust rather than the other way around?
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude Finkelstein, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER , a 501(c.)3 charitable organization. PUZZLES TO REMEMBER is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and other institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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