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Putting Out the Fire with Agreement

The Importance of Yes, And in Dementia Communication.

· Dementia 101,Improv,Communication,Reasonable Reactions

Recently a CDCS student of ours, “Jessie”, shared a story of using the “Yes, and…” approach in caregiving with her father who is living with dementia.

During a Saturday visit with her dad, Jessie and her brother John were preparing a family lunch while their dad sat in his bedroom, reclined back in his Lazy Boy chair, watching a baseball game. All of the sudden, out of nowhere Jessie’s dad started calling out “Fire, Fire!!”

Immediately perplexed, John left the kitchen first to see what his dad was talking about. “Maybe it was just a reaction to something he saw on T.V”., he thought to himself. Jessie overheard mumbling from the other room that soon escalated to a full on argument. She turned off the stove and decided to investigate for herself.

Once in the bedroom, Jessie noticed her dad standing from his chair and shaking his cane in the direction of the closet, “There is a fire in there. Don’t you see it? It’s a fire. We have to put it out!”

John was in freeze mode, unsure of how to react and finding it difficult to admit to seeing a fire that wasn’t there.

Dad continued, “Go get the extinguisher. NOW!! Put the fire out!”

Jessie was quick on her feet and knew immediately that arguing with dad, denying what he was seeing and experiencing, would only instigate further arguments and escalate him further. “I will go get the water!” she exclaimed in full agreement.

She returned moments later with a bucket of water she filled in the kitchen. She offered the bucket to her dad and he instantly threw the water on to the clothing hamper on the floor of the closet.

“Is it out Dad?” Jessie asked, “I think you got it before it got worse.”

Jessie's dad had a look of relief on his face and handed the bucket back to Jessie. “Thank you both,” he began, “That fire could have burned the entire house down. Now you kids are safe.”

Jessie and John left the room to process what had just happened. “That was quick thinking on your part,” John said to Jessie, “but why did he think there was a fire in there?”

“Who knows…” Jessie began, “maybe it was something he saw on T.V. or maybe it was the smell of us cooking in the kitchen. Regardless there was no reason to argue. We needed to meet his emotional need that we, his kids, were in danger. He has always been so mindful of our safety, I guess that instinct never goes away!”

John smiled in agreement and then frowned when he remembered the soaking wet hamper of clothes. “What do we do now? Everything in that hamper is drenched!”

“Yeah, his dirty clothes are now wet. No big deal, they needed to be washed anyway. I will go in later and grab the hamper and run a load of laundry. It’s just water, but it definitely put out HIS fire!”

~ Written by Catherine Braxton, CDCS

Chief Education Officer - Silver Dawn Training Institute

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