What Not to Say to Somebody With Dementia

What Not to Say to Somebody With Dementia

While there are few serious medical or health problems we would treat lightly, for many the most terrifying are those involving loss of cognition. Dementia and other cognitive disorders impact the mind’s ability to function normally. They rob us of our memory, and even our most basic human skills. For someone living with dementia, it can be a delicate issue. After all, who wants to appear weak or inept; yet that’s exactly how dementia can leave someone feeling in their increasingly rare moments of clarity.

For those who live or interact with a cognitive disorder patient, it’s important to not focus on the dementia. It can start with very simple conversational skills.

  • Don’t try to talk about the past, about things that require memory of long ago events. It can be embarrassing for the patient, when someone they’re with is looking at them expectantly and all they can give back is a blank look. Instead, lead such conversations, and leave little spots where they can jump in to share the enjoyment of the memory you’re supplying.
  • Likewise, don’t constantly harp on how they keep forgetting things. Of course it can be trying to need to repeat the same things over and over, but it’s not the dementia patient’s fault they can’t remember.
  • Don’t ask open ended questions, for example “what can I get you to drink?” Give them choices like tea or lemonade.
  • If you feel they are not recognizing you, state who you are. Don’t ask “Do you recognize me?” This could make them feel guilty and like a failure. And do not let your feelings get hurt if they don’t know who you are. Just state who you are and that you are happy to see them.

It’s your job to be patient and supportive. After all, you’re healthy.

Key Points:

  • 1Long lists of activities in a row can easily confuse someone with dementia. Use short sentences and one activity at a time.
  • 2Using the actual name of a person is a good reinforcement for who they are.
  • 3It is important to grasp a dementia patient’s attention before having a conversation.


Good communication can be key to helping somebody to live well with dementia.
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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators.The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.
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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

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