What Should You Not Say To Someone with Dementia

What Should You Not Say To Someone with Dementia

If you have a family member or loved one suffering from dementia, you might find it emotionally draining and difficult to talk to them.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s can both lead to conversations that might not make any sense. Some conversations might also become uncomfortable and inappropriate and could even upset the caregiver.

But, after some time, it is important to learn how to adapt to the behavior of a dementia patient and understand that they don’t change just because they have the condition.

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:

“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.

“Remember when…?”

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.

“You’re wrong.”

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.