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What To Say To Someone Whose Mum Has Dementia

Recognize The Effects Of Grief

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

If your friends parent has dementia or Alzheimers, shes going to be feeling an especially complicated grief. Understand that shes living in a twilight zone where her parent is here but not here. This isnt the kind of grief that shell get over. Its the kind thatll soak into her skin and hang on for the long haul.

In the face of grief like this, Pauline Boss, author of Loving Someone with Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief, says that the best response is Im so sorry. Thats it.

Ok Daughters! Of course you realize that this is not all our friends responsibility. There are some rules of the road for us too

Memory Loss Complicates The Grieving Process

Another difficult decision arises when the surviving spouse cannot retain the news. Grief is natural and normal following the loss of a loved one, but dementia complicates this process. Whether you continue to remind a dementia patient that their significant other has passed away is entirely up to you.

Different approaches work better for different people, depending on their cognitive abilities. For a parent who is in the beginning stages of the disease, it will likely sink in that their spouse is gone. Moderate impairment is more of a gray area. Perhaps reminding them for a few weeks afterward is a good place to start. If the person reacts intensely to this news each time and it affects their mood, behavior and health over the long term, then it may be wise to reconsider this approach after a certain trial period. Remember, you cant make a dementia patient remember something no matter how hard you try.

In the end, you know your loved one best and the choice is yours. I encourage caregivers to tell their family members the truth as much as possible. But if the loss of a spouse affects a dementia patients health and quality of life and hinders your ability to care for them, there should be no shame in trying everything you can to minimize their pain.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

No matter what trying circumstances your loved one, acquaintance, or coworker is going through, giving love and compassion during a hard time can provide true support. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes.

What would you want or need to hear? Or, think back to someone else in your life who dealt with a sick relative. What was it that made them feel better? After all, it may not be the specific words you choose, but your intent behind them. If youre truly wanting to comfort someone, theyll feel it.

If you need more ideas on how to be there for your loved one, check out our guides to sympathy gift ideas, how to sign a sympathy card, and how to write a condolences email.


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Tips For Home Safety For People With Dementia

As a caregiver or family member to a person with Alzheimers or related dementias, you can take steps to make the home a safer place. Removing hazards and adding safety features around the home can help give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely. Try these tips:

  • If you have stairs, make sure there is at least one handrail. Put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so they are more visible.
  • Insert safety plugs into unused electrical outlets and consider safety latches on cabinet doors.
  • Clear away unused items and remove small rugs, electrical cords, and other items the person may trip over.
  • Make sure all rooms and outdoor areas the person visits have good lighting.
  • Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
  • Remove or lock up cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches.

Understand Why Someone With Dementia Says Mean Things

Woman whose mum had dementia accuses government of ...

First, its important to understand why this hurtful behavior is happening.

Dementia is a brain disease that causes parts of the brain to shrink and lose their function, resulting in cognitive impairment.

These different parts control functions like memory, personality, behavior, and speech. Dementia also damages the ability to control impulses, which means actions arent intentional.

Even though its difficult, do your best to remember that they truly dont intend the mean things they say.

These mean comments and hurtful accusations often happen because the person is unable to express whats actually bothering them.

It could be triggered by something in their environment that causes discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety, helplessness, confusion, or frustration.

Working to accept the fact that theyre not doing this on purpose helps reduce stress and makes their behavior easier to manage.

The overall strategy is to take a deep breath, remind yourself that its not personal, take care of immediate discomfort or fear, and try to find the cause behind the behavior.

Next, look for long-term solutions that will help you get the support and rest you need to keep your cool in challenging situations like these.

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Tips For Caregivers: Taking Care Of Yourself

Being a caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia takes time and effort. It can feel lonely and frustrating. You might even feel angry, which could be a sign you are trying to take on too much. It is important to find time to take care of yourself. Here are some tips that may offer some relief:

  • Ask for help when you need it. This could mean asking family members and friends to help or reaching out to for additional care needs.
  • Eat nutritious foods, which can help keep you healthy and active for longer.
  • Join a caregiver’s support group online or in person. Meeting other caregivers will give you a chance to share stories and ideas and can help keep you from feeling isolated.
  • Take breaks each day. Try making a cup of tea or calling a friend.
  • Spend time with friends and keep up with hobbies.
  • Get exercise as often as you can. Try doing yoga or going for a walk.
  • Try practicing meditation. Research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
  • Consider seeking help from mental health professionals to help you cope with stress and anxiety. Talk with your doctor about finding treatment.

It May Feel Like The First Time For The Person With Dementia

Short-term memory loss in a person with dementia can prove challenging for family and friends and when providing care and support. While you may see the person several times during a day, each visit may feel like the first for them. This can have a great impact on a conversation, so consider how you would respond. The best approach for a care worker in these circumstances may be to introduce yourself on each visit and explain why you are there.

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S For Prompting A Persons Memory

Some people with dementia appear to travel back in time, reliving memories from when they were younger. They might expect grown up children to be small again, or expect their parents to still be alive, or even revert back in their mind to previous marriages or relationships.

There are cues you can use to help the person with dementia make the connections between the past and the present. The following tips may help to do this:

  • Put up photos around the house of important times you were together, such as weddings, birthdays, childrens parties
  • Show the progression of time in these photos, so that they show a spouse or partner when young, but also throughout time and how they appear now
  • Keep a photo album on display with the photos clearly marked with peoples names, the year and the event, following the progression from the past to the present day
  • Wear clothes around the house that the person would associate with you these could include a favourite item of clothing or styles from when you were both younger
  • Wear aftershave or perfume that the person associates with you. If they have a favourite perfume or aftershave, encourage its use often the sense of smell can evoke positive memories when words cannot

What To Say When You Think Your Loved One Might Have Dementia


Now that youve done some research and possibly compared notes with a healthcare professional, its time to sit down and have a calm, candid chat. Some experts suggest that a good way to begin is to just be honest. Share that you have noticed that they cant seem to remember things all that well. Ask if they have been feeling stressed or had trouble sleeping. Then wonder aloud if it might be a good idea to see a doctor and get to the bottom of things.

The approach lets you share your concerns without using the D word. It also shows respect for your loved one by asking them what they think.

Some people will be open to the idea of consulting with their primary care doctor. However, depending on your mom or dads personality, and how advanced their condition is, its not unusual to encounter resistance. Although they may be resistant, there are still ways to help a parent with dementia who refuses care.

Like you, they might be scared. Or it could be that the condition is affecting their ability to think things through. Whatever the reason, continue to display empathy and understanding.

One more thought: Dont jump to any conclusions. While it might well be dementia, it could be something else. Changes in memory, mood, and behavior can be the result of other physical conditions, reactions to medication, nutritional issues, hormonal fluctuations and a host of other reasons.

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Tips For Telling The Person About A Death

  • Explain what has happened clearly and simply. Dont use euphemisms like losing someone or saying they have gone to sleep, as they can be misunderstood.
  • Use body language and physical contact if appropriate.
  • Try not to give too much information at once.
  • Allow plenty of time for the conversation and be supportive.
  • Be prepared to repeat information. Try to be patient.
  • If the person becomes very distressed, offer them reassurance . It may help to try a different approach later on when the person is no longer distressed.
  • Make sure that you are supported as well.

The persons dementia may also mean they struggle to do the things theyd normally do to cope, such as speaking to friends about how they feel or using hobbies to keep themself busy and doing things.

Try to help them feel safe and supported. It can also affect their ability to accept the death, and to talk about any distress and emotions theyre feeling.

There are many ways that a person with dementia may respond to the death of someone close to them:

Dementia Connect support line

What To Say If The Family Member Is In The Hospital And Seriously Ill

Dealing with a family member in the hospital can be one of the most stressful things to encounter. If that family member is seriously ill, its that much worse. With a family member in the hospital, your friend may feel strapped for time with either work or staying at the hospital with their loved one.

When they arent at their family members bedside, they may be a bit fragile and worried. If you have a couple of days and went to send something special, they might even a gift box with snacks to share at the hospital or to pass along a get well card to share with their loved one.

Are you wondering if theres something you shouldnt say? Some people may not be keen on hearing definites about the unknown, such as expecting their family member to recover or even trying to offer any medical advice. There are some platitudes that just may not feel appropriate to share and with such a delicate situation, it may be best to err on the conservative side.

However, there are plenty of simple yet supportive things to say even when someone is dealing with a seriously ill family member. Heres what you should say to him or her. Feel free to make the following suggestions your own.

  • How is everything going, if you dont mind me asking? I have been praying for your family.
  • Let me know if I can help you in any way. I want you to be able to give you full attention where its needed.
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    Ways To Reduce And Manage Mean Dementia Behavior

    1. Calm the situation downThe first thing to do is reduce the tension in the room.

    Start by limiting the distractions in the room, like turning off the TV or asking others to leave.

    And if you stay calm, theyre also more likely to calm down.

    It might help you to count to 10 or even leave the room for a short time to cool down. Repeat to yourself its the disease as a reminder that theyre not intentionally doing this.

    If the current activity seemed to cause the agitation, try shifting to a more pleasant, calming activity. Or, try soft music or a gentle massage.

    2. Comfort and reassure while checking for causes of discomfort or fearTake a deep breath, dont argue, and use a calm, soothing voice to reassure and comfort your older adult.

    It also helps to speak slowly and use short, direct sentences.

    Then, check for possible causes of agitation or fear, like:

    • Feeling disturbed by strange surroundings
    • Being overwhelmed by complicated tasks
    • Frustration because of the inability to communicate

    It also helps to focus on their emotions rather than their specific words or actions. Look for the feelings behind what theyre doing as a way to identify the cause.

    3. Keep track of and avoid possible triggersWhenever difficult behavior comes up, write down what happened, the time, and the date in a dedicated notebook.

    Also think about what was going on just before the behavior started and write that down as a possible trigger.

    Taking some time away can help both of you.

    Common Frustrations & Difficulties

    My mother

    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.

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    Dont Ask A Person With Short

    A patient and/or loved one can construe even the simplest of conversation starters as a real question, but they honestly dont know the answer to it. This can be embarrassing and can send them back into a fogthey try their best to give an answer that makes sense to them and often produce immediate physical concerns: I’m having a lot of pain, for example. A caregiver and/or family member might ask, What did you have for breakfast? and the person with memory loss doesn’t remember at all. They might say earnestly, I haven’t had anything to eat for weeks, . So these are questions to avoid because it causes fear for the person, that they have failed. But there things you can talk about

    Please Steer Clear From These Select Phrases

    You must feel alone.

    Caregivers may feel like they are adrift at sea in a leaky lifeboat however, they are never truly on their own. With an estimated 500,000 Canadians having Alzheimers disease or a related dementia , you wont have to look too far to find someone else affected by the condition. Sharing with and learning from another caregiver in a similar situation can be both therapeutic and beneficial. Additionally, there are many programs and services available across the country for Alzheimers caregivers. Instead of leaving the caregiver floating aimlessly, hand him/her a life jacket and recommend contacting The Alzheimers Society of Canada or the closest provincial chapter of The Alzheimers Society.

    Your mother / father is wrong.

    Mom / Dad may think that today is Tuesday rather than Saturday , but, trust me, pointing out such errors is futile. You may likely hear the very same statement a few minutes later . Arguing with someone with an Alzheimers patient is also embarrassing and maddening for someone in the early stages of dementia, as he/she may likely realize that his/her memory is starting to slip. Its far better to smile and accept what the senior has said as truth remember that it is Alzheimers disease which confuses the facts.

    Things arent going to get better.

    Things are going to get better.

    Finding things to do with your mother / father must be tough.

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    Tips For Communicating With Your Parent

    • Avoid power struggles. Dont push, nag or harangue your parents. Making ultimatums will only get their backs up, and yelling, arguing or slamming doors could seriously damage the relationship. Laura Ellen Christian, 15 Expert Tips for When Your Aging Parents Won’t Listen, The Arbor Company Twitter:
    • Ask about your loved one’s preferences. Does your loved one have a preference about which family member or what type of service provides care? While you might not be able to meet all of your loved one’s wishes, it’s important to take them into consideration. If your loved one has trouble understanding you, simplify your explanations and the decisions you expect him or her to make.
  • Don’t fire off questions or ask complicated questions. First off, don’t pepper elders with questions or complicated choices. Instead of saying, Do you have to use the bathroom? say, We are going to the bathroom. If the word shower upsets them, don’t use it. Come with me, you say, and you end up at the shower. If someone with dementia is frightened, acknowledge it and say, You are safe with me. I’ll protect you. After they’re calmer, you can try to get them to do something. The one question that people with dementia often respond to is this: I really need your help. Can you help me with this?” Stacey Burling, They’re Not Just Stubborn: How to Get People with Dementia to Participate, Twitter:
  • 6 Ways To Handle Stubbornness In Seniors, Alternatives for Seniors Twitter:

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