A family member recently asked me how in the world to respond to this comment made by her loved one with memory loss: “I’M GOOD FOR NOTHING ANYMORE.”
Comments such as this are troublesome and very frustrating for both of you. The initial, and normal, reaction is to disagree with them with a response such as “Oh no, that’s not true. You’re still valuable to me.”
Unfortunately that doesn’t sit well! It sounds like you are denying their feelings at best or arguing with them at worst. The reaction often is increased frustration for all.
There IS a more successful approach.
Begin by meeting them where they are and showing you understand their feelings. Remember with me a time in your life when you offered information to someone and they immediately told you that you were wrong. Didn’t feel good I’ll bet. Now add the dimension of memory loss. The individual already feels a loss and a reply that doesn’t acknowledge that their information had value quickly heads the conversation south!
Sometimes your body language speaks louder than your words and will tell them you disagree with them. Try using a caring, warm facial expression coupled with leaning toward them to demonstrate you heard them and do care what they are saying.
The next step is to make a comment such as “That must make you feel sad”; or “That’s got to frustrate you.”; or “Sounds like you are feeling really down.” No need to rush, simply allow your concern to show. Many times they will tell you more of what they are thinking.
I know you then want to say something. Try a comment such as “I was thinking of the time you taught me to make perfect pie crust,” or “I was thinking how you held my hand when I was learning how to fish.” Sit quietly and allow them to “feel” your support.
Your goal of course is calm, enjoyable conversations and going where they are is often the key.