Things not to say to dementia patients

Talking to a loved one with dementia can be difficult and emotionally exhausting. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can lead to meaningless, inappropriate, or uncomfortable conversations and interfere with family care. For caregivers of dementia patients, it is important to always respond with patience. Over time, it is important to adapt to the behavior of the elderly to accept that their condition does not change who they are. Here are some things to keep in mind: what not to tell someone with dementia and what you can say instead.

1.      You don’t remember…

It is a sentence that you can accidentally say without realizing it. Family caregivers often ask an elder if he remembers things. Of course, the answer usually is that they do not because forgetfulness is the most common symptom of dementia. However, it can be difficult to avoid questions like “Do you remember (a family member/friend)?” Or “What did you do today?” This can lead to embarrassment and sadness when an elder realizes he has lost his memories. Instead, say, “I remember …”

There is no way to entirely avoid talking about the past, and it can indeed be a joyful experience for family members when they think of old memories. However, try to change your approach so that it is sensitive to the condition of your loved one. When you talk about things that happened, say instead, “I remember when we got used to…” or “I reminisced when we went to that café…” etc.

2.      Do not remind a person that a loved one has died

It is not unusual for people with dementia to believe that their deceased husband, parent, or other person is still alive. They may be confused or hurt that the person did not come to visit. If you tell them that a person is dead, they may not believe it, and they will get angry with you. If the elderly genuinely trusts you, he will probably be distraught by this news. Also, they are likely to soon forget what you said and come back to believe that your loved one is still alive. The exception to this instruction is if you are asked if the person is absent. So it’s wise to give them an honest answer, even if they soon forget, and then move on to another topic.

3.      Open-ended questions

Open questions can cause a major problem for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This is especially correct if the question involves remembering something, such as “what did you do yesterday?” when in fact, something as simple as “where do you want to go?” can cause anxiety. Instead, say, “Would you like to go to the park?” or maybe when wanting them to take part in an activity, suggest an activity yourself.

If you want to ask a question, try phrasing it in a way that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Avoiding open-ended questions will reduce the pressure on your loved ones because they won’t be forced to remember something they can’t.

4.      You did not do it right

Or maybe something like, ‘It’s not right.’

When talking to someone with dementia, it is essential to realize that what they hear, experience, or say is true for them, even if it is not entirely based on reality.

People with dementia can often mention something from the past or say something that may not be true in the present. We must try not to agree with this when we respond. This method of communication is part of a concept called “validation therapy.”

Here, more importance is placed on the emotional aspects of conversation and less on factual content. It can help you talk to people with dementia with more empathy and understanding.

5.      Refrain from bringing up topics that might upset them

There’s no point in addressing topics you know might upset your loved one. For example, if you don’t see politics face to face, don’t think about it. It can only ignite an argument that goes again according to the second clue above. You won’t get the upper hand and will likely force them to be angry or frustrated.

6.      Don’t tell them that they made an error

In order for a person to keep his face, it’s best not to resist or correct him if he says something wrong. There is no good reason for this. If they are alert enough, they will realize they have made a mistake and feel bad about it. Even if they don’t understand their mistake, point it out can be embarrassing or otherwise uncomfortable.

7.      Don’t argue, even when they do

It is never a worthy idea to argue with a person who has dementia. You can’t win first. And secondly, it is likely to upset or even enrage them. Caregivers often tell that they have long learned that when taking care of patients affected with dementia that it is best to simply change the subject, preferably with something pleasant that immediately catches their attention. In this way, they are likely to forget all disagreements.

Bottom Line

Remember that being negative won’t make your loved one feel good. And there is so much more to them than their mental condition. When interacting with a person living with any type of mental disorder like dementia, it is generally better to use affirmations rather than questions unless you offer a simple and obvious choice. Say, “It’s cold, so we need jackets,” rather than “Do you think you need a jacket?” As your loved one’s illness progresses, word processing becomes more complex, and decisions cannot be made. Follow this procedure and adjust your speech to have a slower cadence. Use short sentences, but speak with a smile. Sometimes your body language can do it all.

Be pleasant and accommodating towards them.

Author Bio

Evie Harrison is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs

Author Bio


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