July-August 2023

Volume 14, Issue 4


A newsletter for caregivers of loved ones with dementia

Fall Education

Starting on September 14, 2023, MemoryCare will be providing an educational series designed for caregivers to learn more about how to care for themselves and their loved one affected by dementia. Courses are free, open to the public, and will be presented as a live online broadcast.

September 14, 2-3:30 pm: 

"Genetics and Dementia: Current Understanding and Future Promise"

Presented by guest speaker Eric Johns, MMSc, CGC, Genetic Counselor

Fullerton Genetics Center

September 21, 2-3:30 pm: 

"Understanding Guardianship for People Living With Dementia"

Presented by guest speakers Andrew Atherton,

Mary Euler, and Phoebe Bulls, Attorneys

McGuire, Wood & Bissette Law Firm

September 28, 2-3:30 pm: 

"Alzheimer’s Disease & Treatment"

Presented by Nikki Gordon, DO

MemoryCare Physician

Visit www.memorycare.org/fall-2023 to learn more and to register.

How NOT to Argue

How many times have you started out in what appeared to be a routine, everyday conversation with your loved one with dementia, only to have it end up in an argument? “Where did THAT come from?” you ask yourself in exasperation, “all I said was so-and-so and all of a sudden he was mad!”  You find yourself walking on eggshells, wondering when it’s going to happen again. You may find yourself thinking, “He’s gotten so argumentative.” And your stress level bumps up another notch.


Most people expect a person with dementia to be forgetful, but dementia doesn’t affect only memory. It impairs thinking and vision and personality and a host of other brain functions. One of the biggest ones is communication.  Gone is the ability to progress logically through a conversation.  In its place are emotions. 


Consider this common scenario: a person with dementia, who has had to give up driving, announces that he’s going to buy a car. His caregiver reminds him, nicely, that the doctor told him that he shouldn’t drive anymore and so he stopped. She goes on to say that he doesn’t need a car anymore, and they had sold his car several months ago.  

Everything she said was true…and had the person not had dementia, this explanation would have sufficed. “Yeah, I know,” he might have said sadly, “but I miss not being able to drive.”  The caregiver would agree, and that would probably be the end of it. 


However, this conversation might go in a different direction if the person had dementia. Loss of logical thought, of the ability to follow explanations and understand consequences, would change how he’s likely to respond. Because he’s being ruled more by emotions than by logic, that reaction will be more emotional than logical: “There’s nothing wrong with my driving! That doctor didn’t know what he was talking about!”  And just like that, now they’re arguing.


Here's where expectations come in. In the last issue of CNN, we talked about adjusting our expectations of a person with dementia. (Click here to read Greater Expectations.) We know that dementia impairs memory and judgment, so shouldn’t we expect our person to forget things or make illogical statements? 

Adjusting our expectations is only the first part of changing this pattern. The second part is adjusting how we respond in these situations. Care partners tend to be fixated on how much their loved one is changing but remain completely unaware of just how much they must change their own habits as well. One wife readily acknowledges that her husband “has lost all logical thought,” but in the next breath is irritated when he fails to follow a logical conversation pattern. Expectations again. 


Every caregiver has heard at one time or another, “Never argue.” But just how do you do that? How do you respond when he says he’s going to buy a new car, or she declares that she isn’t going to her day club?  While there’s no definitive script, having a few communication tips up your sleeve can often help you avoid most of the landmines.

Step 1 – Reflect

This is a no-brainer. Simply repeat back what you heard the person say. “You’re wanting to get a car.” “Sounds like you don’t want to go to lunch with Fred.” Whatever it is they said, you say it back to them, remembering to keep your voice tone and facial expression light and pleasant, as if they had simply said “Oh look, it’s a sunny day.”  Voice tone is crucial – if you say the right words but your tone is edgy or quarrelsome, you’ll blow it.


Step 2 – Agree (or make it sound like you did)

Come up with a positive, encouraging phrase like “Well, I see what you mean” or “What kind of car are you thinking about?” You get extra credit if you’re able to insert “you’re right,” as in, “You’re right, that IS annoying,” or “I get it, you don’t want to have lunch with Fred.” All it must do is have the appearance of agreement – you don’t actually agree, but you don’t disagree either.  This does two things: one, it lets the person feel heard, and two, it keeps you from arguing. Remember, in this moment, any explanation you make will fall on deaf ears.  Keep to the feelings, not the facts.


Step 3 – Apologize

“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words you can use to deflect an argument…and you can use them even when you’re not at fault. “I’m sorry” isn’t you apologizing for something you did wrong, it’s simply your condolence for something not going well. “I’m sorry that happened,” “I’m sorry, I don’t blame you, I’d feel the same way,” “I’m sorry, you’re right, I should have told you before now” - even though you DID tell them earlier (but they forgot – expectations again). You may not like apologizing, and it’ll be hard to do it, but it’s usually preferable to dragging both of you into another argument because you failed to pay attention to your expectations.

Step 4 – Steer in a Different Direction

This can go several ways. You can try to lead the conversation into reminiscing by musing “What was that old jalopy you learned to drive on?” This keeps the topic on driving, but not on driving in the present, which is a minefield. Or you might simply say something vague and dismissive, such as “Well, we may have to give that a try” or “Maybe we should look into that.”  Or, if it’s a situation that needs an immediate decision, you can try a collaborative approach: “Well, I understand that Fred isn’t your favorite person. How about we do lunch this one time? Maybe we can make him pay!” Or blame it on your own shortcomings:  “I know you don’t want to go. I’m sorry to ask you, but I’m nervous about this. I’d feel so much better if you’d go with me.” The idea is to respond with something other than reasons and explanations which are nearly always guaranteed to lead in the opposite direction to where you were headed. Leave the logic at the door and go for the feelings.


Step 5 – Just listen.

Sometimes no response is the best response. When in doubt, it is always acceptable to be noncommittal. “Hmmm…” or “Yeah, I see….”  Then let it go, at least for now.


This kind of communication isn’t natural and won’t come easily to you at first. You’ve been doing it the old way for a long time.  But if you’re getting weary of starting too many conversations that end up as arguments, something will need to change…and that something will need to be you. Lots of caregivers have tried this and gotten some good results. You can too.


Programs and Events
MemoryCaregivers Network
Peer Support & Education Groups
All MemoryCaregivers Network Support Groups are currently being held online on Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm

Network meetings are open to the public. Participants will receive a link via email the day before each meeting.

If you are not currently attending a MemoryCaregivers Network support group, please email network@memorycare.org to join the mailing list. If you do not use email but would like to talk with a support facilitator, please call Mary Donnelly at 828.230.4143.

For more information about the MemoryCaregivers Network, contact:
Mary Donnelly
The Network relies on charitable support to keep its program going.
Donate Now
Caregiver College
A series of six free lectures will be provided for caregivers of persons with memory disorders. Sessions are designed to improve caregiver understanding of different aspects of dementia care. The course is led by MemoryCare staff members with guest lecture by attorney
Caroline Knox, Esq.
2023 Course Schedule
Thursdays from 2:00-5:00 pm
October 12 to November 16
Register for Fall
Until further notice, Caregiver College will be provided as a live-broadcast for online attendance. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. If you are unable to attend virtually and would need to join in-person, please reach out to us at 828-771-2219 or education@memorycare.org. Related course materials will be provided via email.

We gratefully acknowledge
for their support of our program.

Call 828-771-2219 or email education@memorycare.org with questions.

Move for Memory
Join us for MemoryCare's Adult Exercise Program, led by Rebecca Carter, PTA. Classes are free and open to the public and will be provided weekly through Zoom for online attendance.
This class is intended for people with memory impairment to participate with their caregiver in fun and simple exercises. The exercises incorporate movements that can improve daily activities and general mobility. Group exercise will be approximately 40 minutes, followed by a time to answer questions. Exercises can be performed standing or seated.
Please note you will be required to read and acknowledge a disclaimer when registering to join. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. Email education@memorycare.org or call 828-771-2219 with questions.


10:00 - 11:00 am

 Do you need a program for a group event?  
The MemoryCaregivers Network staff presents on a variety of subjects, including Recognizing Early Warning Signs of Memory Loss, Facts and Fiction about Dementia, Better Communication Techniques, and more. 

We are happy to speak at your event to raise awareness and knowledge about Dementia. Contact Mary Donnelly at network@memorycare.org
To see a list of 
A special thanks to the sponsors of this newsletter:
Caregiver Network News and The MemoryCaregivers Network are auxiliary programs of MemoryCare. Caregiver Network News is written and compiled by Mary Donnelly.
Contact network@memorycare.org for more information. 
Subscribe to Caregiver Network News
is a charitable non-profit organization whose mission is three-fold:

To provide specialized medical care to older adults with cognitive impairment;
to support caregivers with education, counseling, and improved access to services; and to provide community education.

We rely on charitable donations to continue these programs!

Please consider donating...
perhaps in honor of a loved one's birthday...
or a memorial...
or a sustaining gift to support families like yours 
who depend on the services that MemoryCare provides!

Make a difference. Make a donation.
Thank you for your interest and support!
Donate Now
Visit Our Website
MemoryCare is a 501(c)3 public charity as determined by the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Tax ID: 56-2178294.  
Financial information about this organization and a copy of its license are available from the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section at 919-814-5400. The license is not an endorsement by the State.