10 Alternative Ways to Say "No" to Someone With Dementia

Yes, it's hard to have to say "no" a lot. Of course, there are good reasons to feel you must do so. People with moderate-stage dementia often want to do things that are unsafe or beyond their current abilities, or that are simply inappropriate, ill-timed, or infeasible. And they lack the cognitive wherewithal to understand that these wishes aren't always possible. Your goal: to preserve an upbeat, encouraging mood while still managing to set the limits the situation demands.

Here are 10 alternatives to "no" that you can try weaving into your vocabulary:

  • I wish we could!

  • Wouldn't that be nice?

  • That's a good idea; let's try to plan something for later.

    SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

  • Would you really like to do that? I didn't know that about you.

  • I think it's too hot/cold/wet today.

  • That sounds like fun for next time.

  • That's an interesting idea to think about.

  • Oh, I can just imagine that.

    SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

  • Really? You have so much energy/enthusiasm/imagination/curiosity.

  • I think I'd be more comfortable doing X; sound good?


5 months ago, said...

These are the best ideas I've seen. Definitely needed. Thanks so much.


over 1 year ago, said...

Many of the alternatives are applicable in other situations.


over 2 years ago, said...

Ideas for alternative ways of saying no. My husband has been a spoiled child his entire life, so being told he is not allowed to do something is a double whammy for him. I like your suggestions. Thank you.


over 2 years ago, said...

I love having specific examples!


over 2 years ago, said...

Article somewhat helpful. However, if the idea is not my husbands suggestion, then it won't fly. So, I try to put the idea of no or not the right time, or the weather is not good for that today, etc. in his head so that he can say himself, "I think it's to hot/cold today, maybe some other time."


almost 3 years ago, said...

I like all of the examples none sound at all negative and it is in a sense a type of positive redirection.


almost 3 years ago, said...

My dad wants to go visit his mom back where he was born. It breaks my heart as his mom is long gone and there is no way he could sit in the car while I drive across three wide states. I have to get used to the fact that I cannot reason with him and quit trying...it frustrates us both. Thanks for these helpful solutions to saying no.


about 3 years ago, said...

That's a tough one, and these are good ideas -- don't want to squash them, want to honor the will to do something, but need to redirect. Thanks.


about 3 years ago, said...

Nice suggestions, since saying no is so much easier, but doesn't satisfy my dad! Thanks


over 3 years ago, said...

Knowing what to expect helps the other spouse. Gives us an insight what to expect and how to deal with it. Just found out yesterday my husband is in renal failure and they are talking about hospice. I also found out that he had uro sepis this whole time. I wish doctors were up front with me and tell me what the problem is right away. My faith in doctors here in Reno is just about nil. Thank God we have your site to help us.


over 3 years ago, said...

Your information here is invaluable. what a loving way to handle the situation. Thank you seems so inadequate to express my gratitude.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I used most of these today!


almost 4 years ago, said...

Suggesting variety of ways to deal with difficult situations is very helpful. Thank you.


over 4 years ago, said...

THanks. I hate being negative but see there are other ways around it.


over 4 years ago, said...

Since it takes a while for Mom to get her ideas verbalized, when my sisters are around her they tell me they ignore her comments/requests and they bring up other subjects to discuss with her. I feel its important to let her take her time when around me to finish whatever it is she wants to say. I am the one who is not involved with work outside the home or children in the home so I feel like there's all the time in the world to listen to her. Of course, this can wear on me at times. Try to look happy whenever around her, tho.


over 4 years ago, said...

Thanks for the great variety. I've been needing more options and these were great.


almost 5 years ago, said...

You forgot to put the link for this article in the current email! You recommended this good link, but didn't make it "hot". Just a friendly nudge. :) Susan


almost 5 years ago, said...

you always send such useful information- thanks- keep it coming!


almost 5 years ago, said...

Thanks for all the advise, A Biggie came up for me only yesterday, We normally would drive from Phoenix to San Diego for some Christmas goodies from the British Food Shop ( we are former English, and it's become a ritual ). Yesterday, Margaret decided it was time to do our drive,,I had dreaded this as my Muscular Dystrophy is not doing too well and I couldn't in all honesty drive safely all that way. She scrawled out a list for the things she would like to get and gave it to me...at a glance, I knew we could get most of the items locally and said so,,,but quickly added " I will phone the store in California and you can get the rest of the stuff sent". This way, she was part of the whole deal and it made things a lot easier..I explained to the sales person what the score was regarding Margaret and then handed the phone over,,,She managed very well and I told her what a good job she did..Mostly, I don't say NO , only to prying relatives who still live in Europe and feel a need to give their opinions.


almost 5 years ago, said...

The most helpful things were realizing the many alternatives to "no" that focus one's mind in an alternative direction. My favorite was, "That's a good idea; let's try to plan something for later." They are still involved and hopefully in some cases can actually come up with a suitable alternative. Whatever functional brain cells they have need to be utilized.


almost 5 years ago, said...

AS YOU SAID IS HARD TO SAY NO, MY HUSBAND AGREES TO EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, BUT IT COULD CHANGE AND IS GOOD TO KNOW HOW TO HANDLE IT. THANKS.


almost 5 years ago, said...

increases my bank of responses


about 5 years ago, said...

Good points, but how can u say no to a mother who all her life has been in control of everything. And gets hurt emotionally when u don't go along with you on most things. I CANNOT hurt my mother it is TOO difficult, and makes me cry. She will never admit she is wrong about anything. She has sacrificed more than anyone can imagine for us 3 kids in her lifetime. It's getting more difficult every day.


about 5 years ago, said...

Thank you so much. Yes! It was very helpful. It's odd isn't it, but if I were speaking to someone else about their mum, I would be stood on the outside the situation and very likely be able to advise them the same way this article has just advised me. When it is one's own parent/situation, one is so emotionally involved in one way or another that one is blind to what would be otherwise quite sensible ideas/options. That is how it is with myself anyway. Also, I really thought that only my mother was difficult, awkward, manipulative etc., and that was before she ever had Alzheimers! But speaking to a friend recently, he was telling me that he was going to visit his mother-in-law that day, because he didn't want the rest of his day ruined, which it probably would be if his wife went to visit her mum. This lady does not have any dementia, she is just generally not very nice to her daughter and so daughter gets upset and cross and hurt and so ends up bitter for the rest of the day which obviously affects poor husband. Last time I went to see my mum, she really upset me because she had been very sour and off-hand to me about a certain subject. but when her carer turned up in the evening all was hilariously funny to the point of tears running down her face, all to do with the same subject that had created sourness in her for me, even though I had been tactful and light-hearted and certainly not been any different than her carer had been.. No! I am not jealous of mums relationship with her carer. . .we both think what a great and lovely person she is. Anyway, enough of my rabbiting on, bye bye for now all of you out there. Blessings to you all. HollyCat


about 5 years ago, said...

Sometimes I just didn't know what to say ..these ideas will help!


about 5 years ago, said...

I could use all the tools I can now. My Mom has progressed rapidly, very rapidly into Alzheimers. She was recently moved from our home to a re-hab, care center. Extremely confused. The hardest part is the fact that her wonderful sense of humor has been lost in the confusion in her new surroundings. It's been a long, hard day. Humor, don't forget to laugh!!!


over 5 years ago, said...

I wish I could always be that upbeat.


over 5 years ago, said...

Good suggestions. Thanks.