Why is “no” the default answer?

Sponsored by Memorable Pets

Use code RWONDER for free shipping (up to $50 of shipping costs) on your next order! Click the Memorable Pets logo here to start saving.

dementia-by-day:

When you work in dementia care, you get used to hearing the word, “no.”

“No, I don’t want a shower.”

“No, thanks, I don’t want to go.”

“No, I already took my pills.”

“No, I don’t want to do any crafts.”

Sound familiar? While there are some people out there who say no just to be contrary, most people with dementia who say “no” do it because they don’t really understand the question.

The best example of this is a female resident I had at one of my communities. Megan was really friendly and loved going on outings, but if you asked her if she wanted to join you, she’d say no. “Hey Megan!” the staff would say. “Do you want to go get ice cream with everyone?” Megan would pause, think for a second, and say, “No, thanks, I’ll stay here.” I came to realize that she didn’t really understand what was being asked of her: instead of thinking about the ice cream, she got overwhelmed at the idea of “going anywhere” and left it at that.

When Megan was told to, “Come with me,” or, “Can you help me?” she would join, no matter what it was. I began offering my hand, telling Megan to come with me, and leading her to the bus for outings. When she asked, “Where are we going?” I’d tell her that we were getting ice cream. She’d be thrilled.

Here’s what I recommend: don’t give someone with dementia the opportunity to say no. Avoid the ask. Asking someone with dementia if they “want” to do something is a sure-fire way to hear “nope!” 

Instead, say, “Come with me,” or ask that person for “help” with a task. 

Are you receiving my emails? No? What are you doing! Sign up now!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

rachael photo

Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

16 things poster
Get the FREE “16 Things” poster!

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia

Get the FREE “16 Things” poster for your personal use—or better yet—your dementia care community’s staff break room!

I wrote this poem years ago, but to date, it’s the most popular piece I’ve ever created.

16 things poster