Alzheimer’s- a New Reality

photoOne of the most challenging things about living with someone with Alzheimer’s can be the constant confusion.

Often, the person isn’t in touch with reality and may not realize where they are, or what year it is, or who you are- and that can be heartbreaking and frustrating.

“No Mom, that’s not Suzie, it’s Karen- your daughter”, or “No Dad, we aren’t going to church today- it’s Wednesday. We don’t go to church on Wednesday”… and so on.

Unfortunately, these types of (well intentioned) responses can often illicit an argument- and actually add to the confusion and anxiety that the person is already feeling.

I distinctly remember having these exact kind of conversations with my grandmother- she would get confused and when we would try to gently correct her- she would become visibly agitated and sometimes even downright angry.

I only wish I had heard of the ‘yes, and’ approach then.

I first heard of the ‘yes, and’ approach on the radio (KUOW). I was driving to work and listening to a story about a comedian who’s mother in law suffered from Alzheimer’s. She was often confused- and sometimes even delusional- but rather than correct her, he used a technique he had learned in an improv class- that of always saying ‘yes, and’ to whatever was thrown at him on stage.

He decided to try this same approach at home. The example he gave was one day his mother in law looked out the window and mentioned something about seeing monkeys in the trees. Instead of telling her how ridiculous that was (as some family members felt the need to do), he just went along with it;

Yes, I see the monkeys, and don’t you think it’s a bit early in the season for monkeys?” Upon hearing this response, she immediately lit up and the two of them went back and forth in a crazy conversation- one that left a lasting impression on both of them.

By saying ‘yes, and’ to whatever his mother in law would say- he  was engaging her in a conversation (no matter how silly or outrageous) which allowed her to feel connected and in turn, gave her joy.

Over time the family began to see that she clearly favored the son in law over anyone else. Her face would light up when he would enter the room and she would get excited to converse with him. They recognized that the change was due to his ability to meet her where she was, and eventually they all adopted the ‘yes, and’ approach.

Sometimes it was easy, other times not so much… but it reminds us that by entering into the reality of the person with memory loss- you are giving that person the opportunity to connect with you.  That connection and social engagement is far more important than ‘being right’.

Through patience, humor and creativity- you can change your interactions with the person you are caring for.

Capability Homecare has trained and experienced caregivers who work with Alzheimer’s and Dementia clients daily.

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