The Ten Absolutes

Absolute Eight: Never Command or Demand, Instead Ask and Model!

Taking people to the doctor is often a challenging task for caregivers. On one occasion several years ago, I took a very sweet little lady to the doctor. She was the picture of what every sweet grandma should be. She had a smiling, innocent face, pretty white hair pulled up in an elegant bun, a pretty dress and a pair of darling little frameless glasses perched on her nose.

Well, it had been a lengthy doctor visit and a busy day for us. On the way to the car, she began to question where we were going and even who I was. As we got to the car and opened the door, she suddenly didn’t seem to be able to get her body to work, so that she could get into the car. She had one hand placed on the top of the car, one hand on the door, one leg inside the car and one leg out. It was as if she was paralyzed. I tried to assist her, and apparently that made her feel as if she was being bullied or pushed. Unexpectedly, she leaned up and in a meek little voice, began to cry, “Help! Help! I am being taken to be killed!”

What now?! Suppose a Good Samaritan came along to help this sweet old lady and they tossed me in the slammer? I was tired, scared and confused, so I did the last thing a caregiver should do in that situation: I ducked and hid! Oddly enough, that turned out to be one of the biggest breakthroughs of my career. I ducked and covered, and for some reason that was the very thing she needed to sit in the car! What I realized later was that I modeled the action of sitting, and she leaned against me and plopped into her seat. Quickly, I helped her slide her legs into the car, hooked her seat belt, closed the door, ran around to the other side, backed out and drove away! This was many years ago, before there were childproof windows. She found the button to open the window and kept shouting for help, but we were on our way and I soon had her home. Let me tell you, she was pretty happy when handed her off to another caregiver and she could get far away from me!

The 8th Absolute tells us, Never Command/Demand - Instead Ask/Model. When we are tired and overtaxed, both the caregiver and the person for whom they are caring have difficulties. What you both need is a break from each other - and that is not often possible. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s can develop rigidity (Apraxia) that keeps their body from moving the way they need it to. Caregivers often try to force them to move by commanding and demanding, or may even try to lift them, push or prod them into place. The problem is, the Alzheimer’s patient can’t get the signals from their brain to go to the rest of their body, so the caregiver feels helpless and things seem to get worse.

For your loved one with Alzheimer’s, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you can get them to see or feel what you are doing, they will often model or mirror that action. If you need them to sit down, then just go through the motions of sitting down and they will usually sit. It is such a simple and easy solution that caregivers sometimes forget to use this tool. Instead, caregivers often keep trying less effective methods until both parties are so frustrated with each other an argument can develop. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to find a way to show them how to do what they want done, simply telling them rarely works.