Dementia and the ‘Yes’ word

YesssWhen 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…

10 thoughts on “Dementia and the ‘Yes’ word

    • I’m pretending to know people a lot more now too… especially those I don’t see often. It’s part of some dementias, and pretending is less painful than saying ‘I’ve forgotten who you are”…


  1. how very sad that this happens, and probably will continue to do so, as you said staff do not have time (maybe do not make time sometimes to),we do have to stop and smell the roses i think…. another great insightful blog from you dear the moon and back xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


  2. Hopefully in our new world that cometh we will have the patience and wise ears to listen so people will feel safe in being themselves and not have to keep saying yes! I hope all is well down there. Take care and happy weekend Kate! love….VK


  3. sadly I have seen the same thing, today in the rush of aged care and the unskilled staff that can be employed in this area this as you have pointed out benefits the staff not the client or patient. I will & did always took the time to explain more than once as if you look into someones eyes you can tell they don’t understand, so stop take the time and share the experince


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