Jun 4, 2018

The Alzheimer's Yakker - Joanne

Yes, you can hold a conversation with an Alzheimer's patient, and you should not be reluctant or fearful.


Quote "Can you hold a conversation with an Alzheimer's Patient"?
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Yakker - to talk, especially uninterruptedly and idly; gab; chatter.


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. The person you knew.

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


Here goes.

I am in another room listening to my sister Joanne talking to my mom. Dotty is living with Alzheimer's disease. I feel like I am in the "wayback machine" -- in the past before Dotty was diagnosed.


Joanne is talking to Dotty in the same way she had 10, 20, 30 years ago. They talk about great grand kids which delights Dotty. They talked about friends, cousins, and long ago vacations.

They even talk about stuff that no longer exists. My sister, Joanne, just goes with the flow. She has learned to do this seamlessly, she does not interrupt, or correct. Sometimes she laughs and Dotty laughs right along with her.


They talk about everything under the sun. Everything that happened and that Dotty remembers from before she was diagnosed. Before Alzheimer's took hold of her short term memory.

The long term memory is still there. All of it is still stored in Dotty's brain.

Joanne was no different than any other person that gets "freaked out" when they learn about a diagnosis of dementia. When Alzheimer's strikes people don't know what to do. They don't know how to handle all the crazy things that Alzheimer's patients sometimes say. It disconcerts all of us, and fools us into thinking you can't really talk to a person living with dementia.

I get asked all the time, can you talk to her? How do you talk to an Alzheimer's patient?


My response, the same way you always did. Just slow it down and smile a lot. Joanne knows how to do this better than anyone I know.


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. The stress just melts away. The happiness is hard to describe. Caregivers know what I mean.


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 is the best time to call.

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.

Calls at night time. 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.

My sister Joanne is the Alzheimer's Yakker.


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.


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. One time I asked my mom where she went to first grade? She answered without hesitation - Saint Monica's. It blew me away at the time. Dotty was in first grade in 1922.

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 she gets happy and looks happy.

Dotty is clearly  "more there".

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


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