How Do I Answer Those Questions I Don’t Want to Answer?

question.svgDear Denise,

I care for my husband who has early stage Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve learned that others who ask me how my husband is doing really don’t want to know. Usually, I just tell those who ask that he’s doing amazingly well for someone who is almost 90.

I also do not want to talk about my problems that I face every day because it seems disloyal to him, it’s none of their business and sometimes I think people are just digging for gossip. And, sometimes I don’t want to talk about it because some days are just really hard for me.

So, how do I answer questions that I don’t want to answer?

Signed,

Staying Silent

P.S. It is a very curious thing that no one asks me how I am!

Dear Silent,

Not wanting to share information can leave us as tongue-tied as not knowing how and how much information to share.

I love your answer (“he’s doing amazingly well for someone is almost 90″). It’s all true and it all focuses on what he can do.

When those ill-intended individuals ask how your husband is, you can use answers like:

“Well, dementia can certainly turn a day upside down. But, we’re a great team so we manage.”

or

“I learn more about dementia every day. A few great resources for me have been (Alzheimer’s Association, Caregiving.com or whatever you want to share). I can give you more information about these organizations if you have more questions.”

or

“Dementia is a wrinkle I’m learning to iron. I’m curious, though, as to why you ask. Do you have a family member with dementia?”

If you wish to only share a little, feel free to turn the tables and ask, “How are things for you?” I love that you understand that you only have to share what you choose to share. This took me a long time to learn–I really let others determine my choice for me.

It is sooo odd that others won’t ask about the family caregiver. During your conversations, feel free to volunteer about how you’re managing without waiting to be asked. Share about your husband and then add, “I had a bad day yesterday but am feeling better today. This is harder than I thought it would be. I’m grateful for those who support me along the way.”

How do you respond to questions about your family member’s health? And, how do you manage when others don’t ask how you’re doing? Please share in our comments section, below.

(Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Just send me an email.)

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

4 thoughts on “How Do I Answer Those Questions I Don’t Want to Answer?

  1. Marilyn

    Great answer Denise! I usually say, “We are managing okay, but it is a HIPPA violation for me to discuss my caree’s health.” That stops the questioning. I hate it when someone asks me on FB, “what is his condition?” I am certainly not doing to respond to that on a public forum. Good grief.

    Reply
  2. Avatar of PegiPegi

    Good info, Denise. @Marylyn love your answer for those that are just being nosey or gossipy….I think I may have to borrow it! The amount of information I give is dependent on who asks, even when it comes to family. My son and his wife want every gory detail; my sister’s I edit. The sisters’ really care but have just gotten through the long ordeal with our much loved Mother. The younger that she lived with is still lonesome without her. I choose not to burden them.
    I have one friend and my kids. Those are the only two who ask how I’m doing. Hubby keeps telling me it’s because everyone likes him best! LOL

    Reply
  3. Avatar of CindyCindy

    I usually just say something generic like “about the same” or “hanging in there”. I think most people just want to be polite and don’t really want to hear details. I DO have lots of people ask me how I’m doing. I guess I’m blessed with many very considerate friends who understand how tough caregiving is.

    My dad is the one who usually floors any new hospice nurse who comes over. They will ask him how he is doing and he usually says, “Another day above ground”. You should see the look on their faces, lol! Hey, my dad has always said, “Tell it like it is”!!

    Reply
  4. Richard

    Dear Denise:

    Yes, good answer! Staying silent is doing what so many spousal caregivers do. Trying her hardest to help her ill spouse in his difficult times. It is so true that so many people – friends, family, only ask how the patient is doing and don’t ask how is the (spousal) caregiver. Her reluctance to discuss details of the case and of the relationship with her husband is a natural feature of spousal caregivers. Joining a support group just for them will help a spousal caregiver deal with that… When one is sick, two need help!

    Reply

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