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HomeHealthWhat Not To Say To Someone With Alzheimer

What Not To Say To Someone With Alzheimer

Dont Infantilize The Person

3 Things Not to Say to Someone with Dementia

Dont talk down to the person or treat them like an infant. This is sometimes called “elderspeak” and it’s got to go.

Have you ever observed how people talk to babies? They might use a high pitched tone and get close to the babys face. While this is appropriate for infants, its not fitting for communicating with adults. Regardless of how much the person with dementia can or cannot understand, treat them with honor and use a respectful tone of voice.

Repetitive Speech Or Actions

People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.

  • Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
  • Try distracting with a snack or activity.
  • Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
  • Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
  • You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
  • Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.

Dont Forget How You Would Like To Be Treated

If you’re not sure how to treat someone with Alzheimer’s disease or what to say, make this your default approach: “How would I like to be treated?” This approach serves well as a guide for how to treat others with the grace, love, and respect that they deserve, no matter what their deficits or abilities.

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Handling Sexual Behavior And Dementia

Most family caregivers have made peace with dementia symptoms like memory loss and repeated questions. However, there is a shocking behavioral symptom that often catches families off-guard: hypersexuality. Seniors may say and do sexually inappropriate things as their condition progresses. Lewd comments and gestures can all increase due to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers, frontotemporal dementia and even Parkinsons.

These behavioral changes can be very difficult for family caregivers to witness, let alone manage, but it is important to monitor them carefully to ensure both the patients dignity and that of the people who interact with them. First, we must acknowledge that an individuals natural sexual desire doesnt just disappear with age and infirmity. When dementia is part of the equation, though, this basic desire may remain intact while ones sexual and social inhibitions decline due to worsening neurological damage in the brain. Unfortunately, some individuals have always been inappropriate or pushed these delicate boundaries, but dementia patients are unique in that they do not fully understand or have control over their actions.

How To Handle A Dementia Patients Thrifty Behavior

Updated: 20 things not to say to a person with dementia ...

Regardless of whether they have dementia, many elders were strongly influenced by the Great Depression and pride themselves on their frugality and resourcefulness. Furthermore, most seniors are living on a limited income and worry about having enough money to see them through retirement. Dementia can exacerbate these concerns and even cause them to project their anxieties other people.

Food tends to be a particular point of contention for many older adults. Some experienced hardship and famine themselves or heard about it from their parents and grandparents and were therefore raised with the mantra, waste not, want not. The memories that dementia patients retain are often from decades back, so they might panic if they see that food is being wasted. For example, a senior with dementia might become overcritical of someone who doesnt clean their plate or save leftovers. They might say something like, That woman is throwing away food! Thats a sin! Look at her dumping her dinner in the garbage!

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Things Not To Say To Someone Living With Dementia

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone diagnosed with dementia. Often they dont disclose their diagnosis in the early years so you can tell at times that something is not quite right. You dont know why they are different to how you have always known them and you dont want to guess or ask for fear of being wrong and offending your relative or friend. Likewise, if you have a friend who has been diagnosed with dementia it can be difficult to know what to say and how best to support them.

Dementia can affect an individual in various ways, depending what caused the dementia, what state of health the individual was in prior to the onset of the condition and how their brain is uniquely affected.

The author of this list, 20 Things Not to Say to Someone with Dementia, Kate Swaffer is living with dementia and makes some great points here.Kate has asked us to include the following when sharing her 20 point list.

If it is possible to positively impact the life of even one more person living with dementia, then it would not matter how many people without dementia disagreed with me.

Kate Swaffer recently wrote:

The development of this list has sometimes been taken the wrong way by family care partners. It was not written to upset or criticise care partners but to help them understand that a few changes to the way they are, when around people with dementia, might improve our experience of dementia and therefore make their job easier.

2. Dont tell us we are wrong.

Should You Keep Trying To Communicate

Family members may frequently ask, How often should I visit?, or, Should I visit at all, because they dont seem to be understanding what were saying, most of the time they dont seem to recognize me, etc. Caregivers can encourage family members to visit because its important to them. Also, the person with memory loss may catch some things on some days, and if family members can make the interaction a pleasant moment, it can be rewarding for both.

Communication amongst family becomes particularly difficult when the person with dementia and/or Alzheimers doesn’t recognize family members anymore. In this situation, a spouse or children can think that it doesnt do any good to go talk to the personthat anyone could talk to him/her because they dont remember who they are. But there is a richness that happens because of family history together, something that can only come from people that have been family or friends for a long time.

The type of communication families can get out of visits can be pulled from the strength of the patient and/or loved ones long-term memories. They can still talk about the past, and for family members, to hear those things are perhaps a worthwhile gift.

Even though the patient and/or loved one can no longer communicate the way they used to, there are still other ways to enjoy time together. There is beauty and simplicity in being in the present moment.

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Disabilities: Think Before You Speak

Excuse me? When did it become acceptable to say these things to an Alzheimers patient? I firmly believe that perhaps people would not say these things if Mom had a different disability/disease, if they actually knew anything about Alzheimers and how to deal with people who have it. The Disability is Natural homepage, created by Kathie Snow , asks: Isnt it time for some common sense, new ways of thinking, and good news about disability issues?

Id love to know how you handle insensitive remarks. Post a comment below!

Think About Your Body Language

What to say to someone with dementia when they want to see someone who’s dead

Quality interaction isn’t just about what you say – gestures, movement and facial expressions can also help you get a message across and convey emotion. If they’re sitting, standing above them can be intimidating, for instance.

Take notice of their body language for clues about how comfortable they’re feeling with the conversation. Make sure to keep your tone of voice positive and friendly too.

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What To Do If They Refuse To Let Go Of The Idea

Sometimes, your older adult will refuse to let go of the idea of going home, no matter how much you try to soothe or redirect.

If that happens, you might need to agree to take them home and then go for a brief car ride.

Experiment with how long it takes before you can take them home without protest. Or, suggest a stop at the ice cream shop, drugstore, or grocery store to distract and redirect.

If its not possible to actually take them out or get into the car, even going through the actions of getting ready to leave can still be soothing. This will shows that you agree with them and are helping to achieve their goal.

Meanwhile, the activities of getting ready give you more chances to distract and redirect to something else.

Keep in mind that not everything you try will work the first time. And even if something works once, it might not work the next time.

Do your best to stay calm, flexible, and creative this technique gets easier with practice.

Be Patient And Avoid Jumping In

Its best to give your loved one extra time to process what you say. If you ask a question, patiently wait for their response and avoid rushing an answer. Get comfortable with silence while your loved one is thinking.

When your loved one is struggling for a word, it can be tempting to jump in. But rather than helping, you may unintentionally derail their thought process, Gurung says.

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For All Family Members

Some of the most common feelings families and caregivers experience are guilt, grief and loss, and anger. Rest assured that you are not alone if you find yourself feeling these, too.


It is quite common to feel guiltyâguilty for the way the person with dementia was treated in the past, guilty at feeling embarrassed by their odd behaviour, guilty for lost tempers or guilty for not wanting the responsibility of caring for a person with dementia.

If the person with dementia goes into hospital or residential care you may feel guilty that you have not kept him at home for longer, even though everything that could be done has been done. It is common to feel guilty about past promises such as âIâll always look after you,â when this cannot be met.

Grief and loss

Grief is a response to loss. If someone close develops dementia, we are faced with the loss of the person we used to know and the loss of a relationship. People caring for partners may experience grief at the loss of the future that they had planned to share together.

Grief is a very individual feeling and people will feel grief differently at different times. It will not always become easier with the passing of time.


It is natural to feel frustrated and angryâangry at having to be a caregiver, angry with others who do not seem to be helping out, angry at the person with dementia for her difficult behaviours and angry at support services.

Coping With End Of Life Experience A Difficult Proposition

What Not to Say to Someone with Alzheimers

The protracted period from diagnosis to death from Alzheimers disease has been called the long goodbye, and for good reason.

Other individuals afflicted with terminal diseases, whether its cancer that has metastasized beyond the reach of treatment, or heart disease that has fatally weakened cardiac muscle, retain the basic elements of their personalities until they draw their final breaths. But with Alzheimers disease, as it slowly progresses, the components of an individuals personality are worn away along with their cognitive skills and memory. Usually, near the end, they no longer even speak. Their body declines, but the pace of their cognitive decline is speedier. Usually, by the time someone with Alzheimers disease dies, the traits, tendencies and abilities the person possessed have long since departed.

Friends and family of the individual with Alzheimers disease become strangers, and, in a sense, the individual with Alzheimers disease becomes a stranger to family and friends.

That fact often changes the grieving process for those left behind. When death does come, it often seems like the person they knew and loved has, for all intents and purposes, been gone for a while.

After some reflection, she realized, in her words, that I had lost her a decade before.

She continued, You feel a gradual loss. My mother was such a bright, active woman. She was so well-read, you could talk to her about anything. When she actually died, I felt strangely empty of grief.

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What Not To Say At An Alzheimer’s Funeral

By | Submitted On June 21, 2010

Your friend’s Mom died after some years of living with Alzheimer’s. You know it’s been hard for your friend. So when you go to the funeral, you want to console her.

Therefore, you say one of 5 rudest, most insensitive things people say at funerals to the bereaved.1. “She’s in a better place now.”

A statement made by people who actually have no idea at all whether that could possibly be true and usually didn’t even know the person well enough to be able to make such a comment.

Your theology at someone else’s funeral is not wanted nor appropriate, unless you are actually the minister.

This is what you say: “I’m so sorry.”2. “It’s a blessing her suffering is over.”

Is it also a blessing that your friend is now bereaved and alone? Is that a divine plan or just the result of stuff happening.

This is what you say: “I’m so sorry.”3. “Be brave. She would have wanted that.”

How very presumptuous of you and who the heck are you to give instructions like that so a newly-bereaved person?

This is what you say: “I’m so sorry.”4. “God wanted her home with Him.”

This is the kind of theology which, besides being presumptuous, also portrays God as something between Bad Santa and the kind of loving father who hands out slices of poisoned cake to the kids.

Keep your bizarre theories of the divine to yourself and just say, “I’m so sorry.”5. “It was all part of Gods’ plan.”

So just bite your tongue on the life theory and say, “I’m so sorry.”

Common Frustrations & Difficulties

Communicating with a person with memory loss can be difficult, but the right strategies can bridge the gap and foster a more fulfilling relationship between the patient and/or loved one. For caregiverswhether you’re a professional or a family member caring for a loved oneits important to adopt a positive attitude to effectively communicate.

Engaging with patients and/or loved ones in an encouraging and patient manner will help minimize feelings of frustration. If you’re struggling to connect with a patient and/or loved one with memory loss, its important to know a few common frustrations and traps and how you can avoid them.

First, remind yourself that people with dementia and/or Alzheimers only have the present moment, so we can let them know that we enjoy their company. When caring for someone who has the disease, the most important thing to take care of is that persons feelings. A person with memory loss cant remember the minute before, they dont know whats going to happen in the next minute. They cant do that kind of thinking, so how they feel right now is the most important thing to pay attention to.

Also Check: Alzheimers Awareness Ribbons

What Is Alzheimer Disease

Alzheimer disease, which affects some older people, is different from everyday forgetting. It is a condition that permanently affects the brain. Over time, the disease makes it harder to remember even basic stuff, like how to tie a shoe.

Eventually, the person may have trouble remembering the names and faces of family members or even who he or she is. This can be very sad for the person and his or her family.

It’s important to know that Alzheimer disease does not affect kids. It usually affects people over 65 years of age. Researchers have found medicines that seem to slow the disease down. And there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.

What Shirt Do You Want To Wear

DO NOT Say CALM DOWN! (What to Say Instead!) “What *NOT* To Do in Dementia”

People living with dementia have a hard enough time navigating this confusing world without being asked open-ended questions. Preserve dignity by offering choices, which is a vital part of care, but simplify the choices by holding up two shirts and asking which shed like to wear. He may mention the color of one shirt, but point at another, so go with the one he points to and say, This one? Then hell say yes or no, or else nod. You can say, Great choice! Lets put that on, and then help him dress.

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Things Not To Say To Someone With Dementia

Speaking to an elderly loved one with dementia can be difficult and emotionally draining. Alzheimers and dementia can lead to conversations that dont make sense, are inappropriate or uncomfortable, and may upset a family caregiver. However, over time, its important to adapt to the seniors behavior, and understand that their condition doesnt change who they are.

For senior caregivers, its important to always respond with patience. Here are some things to remember not to say to someone with dementia, and what you can say instead.

1. Youre wrong

For experienced caregivers, this one may seem evident. However, for someone who hasnt dealt with loss of cognitive function before, it can be hard to go along with something a loved one says that clearly isnt true. Theres no benefit to arguing, though, and its best to avoid upsetting a senior with dementia, who is already in a vulnerable emotional state due to confusion.

Instead, change the subject.

Its best to distract, not disagree. If an elderly loved one makes a wrong comment, dont try to fight them on it just change the subject and talk about something else ideally, something pleasant, to change their focus. There are plenty of things not to say to someone with dementia, but if theres one to remember, its anything that sounds like youre wrong.

2. Do you remember?

Instead, say: I remember

3. They passed away.


4. I told you

Instead, repeat what you said.


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