No one knows what to say when they hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia. The disease can be so unpredictable and overwhelming, leaving both the person with dementia and their loved ones feeling lost and alone. Unfortunately, there are many things that you should never say to somebody who is living with dementia.
Whether you are a caregiver of a dementia patient or you know someone who has the condition, make sure that you know the things that you should never say to a dementia patient:
Avoid Open-Ended Questions
When talking to a loved one who is living with dementia, there are some things you should avoid saying. One of the most important is to not ask open-ended questions. These questions can be difficult for someone with dementia to answer and can lead to frustration on both ends. Instead, ask specific questions that can be easily answered.
“I’ve just told you that.”
It can get quite frustrating to answer the same question over and over again yet repetition will surely happen. Nothing good will come out of passing on your frustrations to someone with dementia. Saying this phrase to them will only serve as a reminder of their condition.
What you should do instead is to try to be as patient and polite as you can. It is important for a person with dementia to feel that they are understood and listened to.
Although it could be very tempting to try jogging the memories of a person with dementia, questions like this usually remind them of lost memories. It can be a painful and frustrating experience and there is no evidence that trying to train the brain this way can help a person recall memories. It doesn’t mean that you need to talk about the past but it would be better to be the one to lead the discussions and let the person join in.
Don’t ask a question and start with “I remember when…” This way, the patient can go through their memories calmly without feeling ashamed and they can join in the conversation whenever they want to.
“That’s not right.”
When talking to a dementia patient, it is important to always keep in mind that everything that they feel, say, and experience is the one that is true to them even when it doesn’t have any real basis.
Usually, people with dementia may talk about something that is not true in the present day or something from the past. When this happens, it is a must to avoid disagreeing with them every time you respond.
This type of communication technique is one accept of the validation therapy concept. There is more emphasis on the conversation’s emotional aspects instead of the factual content. This can help people talk to people with dementia with more understanding and empathy.
This one seems evident for professional caregivers. But, for those who don’t have experience dealing with cognitive function loss in the past, it might be difficult to go along with things that a loved one says that is obviously not true. However, once again, it wouldn’t benefit you if you argue and it would be best to make sure that you don’t upset the dementia patient whose emotional state is already vulnerable because of confusion.
You can try changing the subject instead. Don’t disagree and just create a distraction. If a dementia patient says something wrong, avoid fighting them about it. You can try changing the subject and discuss a different topic. It should be something pleasant so that you can shift their focus.
“I told you…”
Again, you need to expect that you will need to repeat things every time you care for a person with dementia. There might be a need for you to tell a dementia patient something just for them to forget then ask you the same thing all over again. For such instances, it might be a bit hurtful for them to hear this from you as it will remind them of their condition and confuse them even more.
You can just try repeating whatever it is that you said. This requires patience and might even require frustration. However, don’t forget that it is not their fault that they are forgetfulness. Repeat the things you told them then say it in a polite way like how you said it the first time. Telling them that they already asked about it will make them feel as if what they did is wrong even when they don’t really understand what was wrong.
“Do you recognize me?”
There are times when it can be very distressing if someone with dementia doesn’t recognize you. However, don’t forget that the feeling is actually mutual. They might feel guilty if you ask the person if they recognize you but they don’t. They might also feel offended if you ask them this and they actually remember you.
The way you greet someone with dementia may change based on their condition’s specific stage. You can try judging it yourself yet try keeping it friendly. It might be enough to say hello or say your name.
“Do you need help with something, dear?”
Words such as dear, honey, and love might sound patronizing for people with dementia. It is often called elderspeak and it might make feel the elderly feel infantilized.
Try using the patient’s name as often as needed as this can help maintain their dignity while aiding with their concentration.
Long and Complex Sentences
Someone with dementia might find it hard to grasp long and complex sentences. It is hard to process several ideas at the same time when the cognitive abilities are slowing down. This is why it is better to give instructions and directions one by one. You should try using and simple sentences often. Don’t speak in loud environments. Wait until you get the full attention of the person before starting a conversation.
Communicating with a loved one or a patient with memory loss has its own challenges. However, make sure that you avoid saying the things above to overcome communication barriers and maintain a good connection for a long time.
Tips for Talking to Someone with Dementia
Dementia is a progressive neurological disorder that affects cognitive abilities, including memory, thinking and reasoning. It can be a difficult disease for both the person with dementia and their loved ones. One of the most important things you can do to make someone with dementia feel comfortable is to take the time to talk to them. Here are a few tips for talking to someone with dementia:
Make Eye Contact and Use Their Name Often
Eye contact is important when talking to anyone, but it’s especially important when talking to someone with dementia. Making eye contact helps ensure that the person understands what you’re saying and makes them feel respected and engaged. You can also use the person’s name often to help them stay focused on the conversation. This simple step can make a big difference in helping them feel connected to you.
Speak Slowly and Clearly, Using Simple Sentences
When talking to someone who has dementia, it is important to speak slowly and clearly, using simple sentences. Dementia can cause a person to become confused and forgetful, so it is important to keep conversations short and simple. Be patient and take the time to explain things slowly and clearly. If the person you are speaking with does not seem to be understanding what you are saying, try rephrasing it in a different way.
Avoid Speaking Too Loudly or Too Softly
When speaking to someone with dementia, it is important to avoid speaking too loudly or too softly. Speaking too loudly can be overwhelming and jarring for the person with dementia, while speaking too softly can be difficult to hear and may lead to misunderstandings. Speak at a normal volume and adjust your tone of voice depending on the person’s level of comprehension. Be patient and take the time to ensure that the person understands what you are saying.
When you are talking to someone who has dementia, it is important to be patient. They may not be able to follow a conversation quickly or remember what you said a few minutes ago. It is also common for them to become frustrated or confused easily. Sometimes they may even seem like they are not listening to you at all. However, it is important to keep talking to them and remain calm. The person with dementia may still be able to understand some things, even if they can’t express themselves clearly.
Be Aware of The Person’s Body Language and Mood Changes
When you are talking to someone with dementia, be aware of their body language and mood changes. Dementia can cause changes in mood, behavior, and communication. The person may become agitated, withdrawn, or confused. You may see changes in their facial expressions or hear them speaking in a different tone. Be patient and understanding. Adapt your conversation to meet the person’s needs. If they become agitated, try to calm them down and redirect the conversation. If you are unable to understand what the person is saying, ask a family member or friend to help translate.
Reduce Distractions as Much as Possible
When talking to a loved one with dementia, reducing distractions as much as possible can make the conversation easier for both of you. This may mean turning off the television or finding a quiet place to talk. It’s also important to be patient and understand that your loved one may not always be able to follow the conversation. Try to keep your conversations short and simple, and be prepared for some pauses in the conversation.
In conclusion, there are many things that people should not say to somebody who is living with dementia. These include, but are not limited to, comments about the person’s memory, assumptions about what the person can and cannot do, and criticisms about how the person is handling their condition. Instead, try to offer words of encouragement and support, and be respectful of the person’s limitations. If you are unsure of what to say, simply ask how the person is doing and listen to their response.