The Caring Corner - Blog

Alzheimer’s Care Tip #7: Never Say, “You Can’t,” Instead, Do What They Can

By Emma Dickison

Alzheimer's Advocate Jo Huey

This is part of an ongoing series of guest blogs written by Jo Huey, the Alzheimer’s Advocate®, founder of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute.

In our last post, we talked about the 6th Absolute of communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s: Never say, “I told you,” instead repeat/regroup.

Today, we’ll explore the Seventh Absolute:

#7: Never say, “You can’t,” instead do what they can.

No one likes to be told they can’t do something; however, for someone with Alzheimer’s, this scenario is all too familiar.

As the disease progresses, it is increasingly difficult for them to discern what they can and can’t do safely.

Alzheimer's Care Tips

What may seem rational to them could actually be detrimental to their health. Simple things like, “You can’t go outside; it’s raining,” “You can’t go to the bank; it’s midnight,” or “You can’t wear shorts; it’s freezing outside!”

Although you have their best interest at heart, it’s just another reminder to them that they are losing their independence and freedom.

As the caregiver, you’re tasked with the responsibility to search for the things that the person with Alzheimer’s can do successfully.

It’s important to focus on those activities that offer them a choice. For example, get an umbrella so you can go out in the rain with them; go to a bank with a drive-thru ATM; or pair shorts with a warm sweater so it’s more comfortable to go out in the cold, etc.

These small and easy changes will have a positive impact on your loved one’s confidence and self-esteem, resulting in a win-win for you both.

It’s also important to avoid “yes/no” questions if “no” will not be an acceptable answer.  For example, instead of asking, “Do you want to go to breakfast?” offer an invitation, “Come with me! They have the best smelling food for breakfast.”

In our next post, we’ll explore the Eighth Absolute: Never command/demand, instead ask/model.


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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of H.H. Franchising Systems, Inc.