Oct 26, 2012

Alzheimer's World and No World

In Alzheimer's World the word NO can break you down emotionally. It can cause you to give up. It can turn your thoughts and feelings so negative that you just stop trying.

Alzheimer's World  and No World

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

If I had a buck for every time my mother said NO I would be on the Forbes 400 list of the world's richest people.

If I had a buck for every time my mother suggested we go some place or do something, I would be dead stone broke.

In Alzheimer's World the word NO can break you down emotionally. It can cause you to give up. It can turn your thoughts and feelings so negative that you just stop trying. Alzheimer's wins.

Honestly, who wants to hear the word NO over and over. Raise you hand.

No is a tiny little word. Tiny but powerful.

Alzheimer's disease is a sinister disease. Its sneaky. Much of the time you might not even know it is there. Alzheimer's is out to get you, and get you it will if you let it.

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I've written before, Alzheimer's kills the brain of the person that has Alzheimer's disease. It will also try to kill the will and spirit of the Alzheimer's caregiver.

Alzheimer's wants to kill everything it comes in contact with -- and this means you. Alzheimer's can and will kill your spirit -- if you let it.

There are many ways to change the NO paradigm and to start using the word NO against Alzheimer's. Here is the first step.


I am going to suggest if you are struggling with the word NO in Alzheimer's World that you do the following.

When you wake up in the morning and are brushing your teeth I want you to look in the mirror. I want you to look yourself right in the eye and I want you to say -- Just Say NO to Alzheimer's. I want you to do the same exact thing before you go to bed at night.

Here is a tip. When you want someone that has Alzheimer't to do something or to participate in an activity you have to marry your request to something that the Alzheimer's patient loves or likes to do.

For example. I might say to Dotty, we are going to the doctor at 10. I already know what Dotty is going to say. Some combination of NO, I don't need to go to the doctor, the doctor is a quack, or all the doctor wants is our money.

Every time.

So here is where I bring in the positive or positive reinforcement.

I say, we are going to go to the doctor at 10 and when we are done we are going out to breakfast. Breakfast is Dotty's favorite meal. If I gave Dotty breakfast three times a day, she would be one happy camper.

If we have the appointment in the afternoon I say, we are going to the doctor and after we finish we are going to get an ice cream cone. Or I might say, we are going to get lottery tickets.

I marry what we are doing to something that Dotty wants, loves.

In fact, I am marrying NO to YES. The last words are the hook -- the positive outcome of doing something. The hook is something that Dotty would never say NO too. You have to find the "hook".


Over the years I expanded on the above. I started telling Dotty the day before  (or the evening before) that we are going to the doctor tomorrow and after we finish something very positive is going to happen. The something is a food or an action that Dotty would never refuse: breakfast, ice cream, or even a slot machine.

I start marrying the NO to something positive the day before. I do this many times over and over. I want to embed a positive outcome in her mind as many times as I can. In other words, I want to negate the NO as many times as I can. Frankly, I believe this cancels out the NO.


My mother always said NO to exercise. Years ago I started convincing my mother that exercise would help strengthen her legs, make it easier to walk, and get rid of the pain in her knees that she complains about every day.

My mother's initial response is always NO to exercise. But guess what. She goes every time.

My sister Joanne will testify that I have convinced (or maybe brainwashed) Dotty that exercise is essential to the well being of her legs and the ability to keep walking. My mother fears the walker and the wheelchair more then she "hates" exercise.

Nevertheless, this does not stop Dotty from saying NO upfront.

Here is an example.

I tell my mother early in the morning when she wakes up we are going to the gym. She immediately says NO, I am not going. I do what I already described. I end on the positive note, something that Dotty would never refuse.

I lay out her gym cloths well in advance and tell her we are going to the gym. She tells me she is not putting them on. Guess what I say?

OK, good, you are getting the hang of it.

When the time comes to put on the gym cloths, I change it up a bit by adding the hook, when we are done we are going out to breakfast, or when we get back you are getting breakfast -- egg, toast, coffee, bacon etc.

Finally, she is dressed and away we go.

However, the Alzheimer's does not stop trying to defeat me.

On the way to the gym Dotty tells me she is not going in when we get there. I ignore the NO and accentuate the positive for her.

When we get there she tells me she is not getting out of the car. More positive reinforcement  as I walk around the car, open the door, and reach out my hand.

On the way in she tells me, I am going in but I am just going to sit there, I am not going to do anything.

As we make our way in, Dotty is bent over. I watch the snails that are walking faster than we are. If you didn't know better, you would think Dotty was going to the gas chamber.

We get in and I assist Dotty on to the treadmill, and away we go.

On the way out, Dotty is standing up straight, she is walking a bit faster, and most times she even smiles.



Start looking in the mirror and saying NO to Alzheimer's. If you do this it will become a strong belief embedded in your brain.

Don't ask the Alzheimer's patient if they want to do something. Say gently, we are going to (fill in the blank) and you are going to get something (fill in the blank) that you really love as an end product of the effort.

Coffee, ice cream, potato chips, breakfast works for us every time.


In closing, you have to start somewhere. You are trying to do three things.
  • First, convince yourself that you are willing to say NO to Alzheimer's. To come to a belief.
  • Second, use positive reinforcement as the end-game of every experience. Develop the "hooks".
  • Third, establish a pattern that works and then make sure you sing every praise and positive word you can think of  when the mission is accomplished. Lay on the positive and praise as hard and as often as you can.

Accentuate over and over how happy you are, how pleased you are, how wonderful the person that has Alzheimer's is for participating.

This won't be hard, the joy will just coming flying out of you.


Sooner or later you will come to the same understanding that I came to.

NO is a tiny little word, and the only time you are going to accept the word NO is when you say

NO to Alzheimer's disease.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room