When my father in law was alive, we noticed he said yes to almost everything, or nodded, or agreed with us when we were together. He said yes to the staff too, even if a yes or no answer was not the required response. It eventually became obvious he was saying yes because he didn’t understand what we were saying, or couldn’t keep up with the conversations, and so agreeing with us was easier than constantly asking us to repeat ourselves, or explain what we meant. Smiling or being agreeable always helped keep us at bay from delving too deeply into his side of the conversation.
I am also learning how it feels to need to ask people what they mean, and much easier to smile and say yes or nod in agreement when I can’t keep up or don’t understand. Fudging understanding is still reasonably easy, as long as I take my time and am not too tired, but verbal communication is definitely becoming more challenging. Reading is much easier for me to understand, as long as I have time. Communicating via email or a blog is now my best communication route. The written (typed) words can be kept in a file, allowing me to go back to them, and even if I don’t remember what was ‘said’ at least I have a record of it. Often I record verbal conversations now too, especially ones I really want or need to recall, and the App called SoundNote that I have on my iPad has been invaluable.
Even in schools, many children are often too scared to question things for fear of getting into trouble, or because they don’t wish to appear dumb in front of the teacher or their friends. Pretending to understand starts at a young age for many, and so, perhaps when a person has dementia, this option is one many of us have used before, and revert back to as it takes away the pressure of not understanding. Not understanding things makes me feel a failure and less intelligent, especially because often an explanation no longer helps… it is so much easier to say just agree or yes!
In aged care, saying yes is far easier than saying no or questioning everything, as the staff barely have time to do the basic tasks. And then, when an explanation doesn’t help the person with dementia to understand, that person can feel frustrated, and can get agitated or angry. In my experience as an observer in aged care, the staff are far more likely to spend extra time with the residents who are agreeable. This does not only apply to aged care, but is also true in everyday life; no-one wants to spend time with someone who is agitated or angry much of the time.
Saying yes to everything helps people appear to be agreeable, compliant, and happy…