Why Does My Loved-One Always Say No?

Vicky Pitner   -  

So often, when supporting someone living with dementia, a first response when a suggestion is given to do something, the answer is most often, “no.” Although showing respect and honoring choice is important, this is when a suggestion or request is something they would have been willing to do in the past such as take a walk in the garden. So why do they say “no?”

The reason is that dementia affects not just memory, but language and judgment. They likely do not really understand what you are asking, and are fearful. So, just like when we are asked to do something we don’t understand, our response is often “no” too.

With a little creativity, a slight shift in speech, and a bit of patience, the following tips may be helpful in turning that “no” into a “yes.”

  • Avoid a yes or no question. Rather than ask, “Mom, would you like to go sit outside in the garden?” try “Mom, it is so pretty outside. I would love for you to help me water the patio plants.”
  • A gently physical prompt is also helpful. Taking their hand and walking toward the door while thanking them for their help will work.
  • Ask a choice question. “Mom, would you like to go sit in the garden with me before or after lunch?” If the answer is after lunch, then suggest, “Let’s go now, and then we can relax after lunch. Here is your sweater.”

Encouragement and positive facial expressions can promote more cooperation. Because of their dementia, they often make poor choices regarding their health and well-being.  Keeping your loved one engaged and actively creates more joyful experiences to share throughout the day.

If you would like more information on our Memory Ministry, Memory Café, or Virtual Caregivers Support Group, please contact Vicky Pitner at vpitner@firstumc.org.