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What Do You Say?…….

November 27, 2013

The following guest post is provided courtesy of Rae-Lynn Ziegler, author of Let’s Look Together, a wonderful book designed to help caregivers connect with their loved ones.  More info is available at

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Before I start to write about the topic of ‘What Do You Say?” ….I am going to reflect on several terrific blog articles that Acorn’s Lorenzo Mejia has posted as learning kernels. November 20th Friends with Benefits – Socialization is a key component for healthy living no matter what! It reassures us that we are not alone and that we are cared for, that we are valued as having something worthwhile to say to another human being, and it stimulates creative thought process which keeps the brain ‘awake’ and alive! Person Centered Care, Nov. 14th – can care be provided any other way? Don’t each of us want others to know who we are, and where we’ve come from, highlighting the day to day things that are important to us? After all, understanding emphasizes empathy versus judgment and impatience. And then, It Will Happen to the Best of Us, Nov. 17th – don’t you hate it when you know what you want to say, but can’t remember it? Or say something that may not be accurate, but aren’t judged for what you end up saying?

mother and family lived courageously as a team coping with the behaviors and ultimate regression of Mom’s dementia. She fortunately, remained sweet, funny and responsive to our love throughout the years of her life with dementia. Mom had always been articulate, and interactive with most everyone that she met. Three years before she ultimately died, she started to lose her capacity to share in mutual conversation.

What do you say to engage the person in to meaningful dialog? Well, you meet them just where they are at – no ‘right or wrong’ with what they might say, engaging them with what they might say at any given moment. Why cause distress by wanting to talk about something else? (unless they are angry and agitated and you feel the need to divert their attention). Every time a comment is made again, and then again, and maybe once more, think that it is the first time that they think that they are saying it! Every person presents with behaviors and symptoms that are the same but are unique to the individual – honor them with dignity as the person you love – they will feel the support even if they cannot acknowledge it!

Clear, vivid, less busy non-familial photographs that are both black and white or display vivid color will engage the brain most readily, setting the stage for a response – a laugh, an exclamation, a comment about something related to the photograph, or not!

When mom could no longer initiate conversation, Let’s Look Together, an interactive photo book that I created as a Christmas gift one year, was my lifesaver. It kept mom and I connected socially, and emotionally.  After all what do you say? It is often a heart rendering challenge.


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