6 Things to Avoid Saying to an Aging Adult with Dementia

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Seniors with dementia benefit from regular social opportunities with their families as well as other trusted adults. However, you may sometimes wonder how you are supposed to handle challenging situations such as the realization that your aging loved one no longer recognizes his or her best friend. The following six statements represent some of the most common things people say by mistake, and you can use the suggested alternatives to always know what to say to someone with dementia.

1. But You Don’t Look Like You Have Dementia

Dementia is a condition that progresses through several stages, and the prognosis is different for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, people with dementia can often function independently for many years before they require serious assistance. While this statement seems like a compliment, it can be confusing to an older adult who may be in denial about his or her diagnosis. Instead, greet someone with dementia like you would anyone else by saying he or she looks good and you are happy to see him or her. 

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2. What Did You Do Yesterday?

Although this question is a pretty typical conversation starter, it can be impossible for someone with dementia to answer. Instead, ask your loved one something about the present moment that requires only a simple yes or no response. For instance, you could ask if he or she loves the colors of the flower arrangement on the table.

3. I’ve Already Explained That

Repetition is common when talking to someone with severe memory loss or a lack of comprehension. However, telling your loved one that you have already explained something could lead to further confusion and frustration. If your loved one still does not understand what you have said, take a deep breath and try restating your instructions. 

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4. Your Spouse Passed Away Years Ago

People with dementia sometimes get stuck in the past and make statements that are no longer true, such as stating their spouse should be home shortly when he or she is actually deceased. While it may seem helpful to set things straight, this is one time when the truth may not be the right way to go. Telling a person with dementia that someone passed away or that he or she no longer lives in his or her childhood home could cause pain. Instead, shift the conversation to something happening in the present to restore the pleasantries.

5. Do You Remember This Person?

Being forced to remember someone from long ago can be frustrating to someone with dementia who may have difficulty remembering the names of their loved ones. Instead, always introduce people as if it is their first time meeting, as this allows your loved one to respond without feeling pressured to know something he or she cannot recall.

6. Here, Sweetie, Let Me Help You

Seniors with dementia are still grown adults who have lived rich lives full of experiences. For this reason, you should always ask your loved one if he or she needs help before offering assistance, and remember to avoid using patronizing language. Instead, use your loved one’s name and let him or her perform tasks independently as long as they’re not dangerous. Make sure to speak directly to your loved one as much as possible instead of over his or her head to other people in the room. Often, seniors with dementia are perfectly capable of forming a response if given enough patience and respect.

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