9. Don’t assume they can’t answer for themselves.

questionsThis is a deeper dive into the nine item from my list of things to never say to a person diagnosed with dementia

The underlying premise of this suggestion is to be continually mindful of your loved ones basic human need for meaning and purpose. Early on, when I would take mom to the doctor and had hoped to pursue a diagnosis or testing to understand why she no longer seemed to have short-term memory and seemed to now have a short temper, I would always let mom answer the doctor’s questions. When I wanted to convey a more detailed answer, which sometimes conflicted with my mom’s response of “No” to every symptom the doctor prompted her on, I would start with “Lately, I’ve noticed …” My mom was often angry with my answers and would work to dismiss them all.

Later on, when we would see a doctor that knew they had dementia and would often turn to me to ask the question, I would put it back to my mom or dad to try and answer first. I was amazed at how many people in the medical community don’t recognize how dismissive their bedside manner appears. I also recognize that they are now battling a 15-minute appointment time. However, I always felt it was important to give my parents the opportunity to answer any question.

So many people make the assumption about the individual in front of them. It was one of the reasons I wanted to move mom into a community dedicated to memory care. The staff was well-trained and engaged the resident directly, which went a long way in helping me be comfortable that mom was going to live with dignity.

In the last year of both of my parent’s lives, when they couldn’t answer the question, they would just turn to me to answer for them. I fully recognized the trust my parent placed in me to speak on their behalf, but I had to earn it first. Reflected. 


2 thoughts on “9. Don’t assume they can’t answer for themselves.

  1. This is so true. I think as dementia caregivers we naturally want to compensate for our loved one’s growing deficiencies, especially in public, but they are often more aware than we think. It’s a fine balance though, because like you said, doctors have such limited time to spend with patients and you do want to make sure all of the symptoms are addressed and questions answered.

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