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7 Things Not to Say to Someone With Dementia

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A man having a serious conversation with his older adult father outdoors.

Dementia is a term used to describe a decline in mental abilities, such as memory loss and cognitive impairment. It can be caused by various conditions, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia often face challenges in their daily lives due to their condition, and it’s important for those around them to be understanding and supportive.

Communication is essential when interacting with someone with dementia, but there are certain phrases that should be avoided. 

Here are 7 things not to say to someone with dementia:

  1. “Do you remember…?” or “Don’t you remember…?”
  2. “You just told me that.” or “I already told you.”
  3. “That was yesterday/last week/last month.”
  4. “Why can’t you remember?”
  5. “You’re wrong.”
  6. “Let me do it for you.”
  7. “You used to be so smart.” or ” You know how to do this.”

These phrases may seem like spontaneous reactions to possible frustrations, but they can be hurtful and frustrating to someone with dementia.

“Do you remember…?” or “Don’t you remember…?”

This phrase can cause anxiety and embarrassment for someone with dementia. It puts pressure on them to recall something they may have forgotten, which can be difficult and frustrating. Instead of asking if they remember something, try providing gentle reminders or prompts to help stimulate their memory.

“You just told me that.” or “I already told you.”

Repeating oneself is a common symptom of dementia. It’s important to be patient and understanding when someone with dementia repeats themselves, as it is not something they can control. Using these phrases may make them feel like a burden or that their memory loss is inconveniencing others.

“That was yesterday/last week/last month.”

Similar to asking if someone remembers something, stating the time period of the event can put unnecessary pressure on someone with dementia. It’s best to avoid mentioning time frames and instead focus on the present moment.

“Why can’t you remember?”

This phrase can be hurtful and make someone with dementia feel inadequate or like they are failing. Instead, try offering reassurance and understanding that their memory loss is a symptom of their condition.

“You’re wrong.”

Challenging someone’s memory or beliefs can cause frustration and confusion for someone with dementia. It’s important to validate their feelings and thoughts, even if they may not align with reality.

“Let me do it for you.”

While this phrase may seem helpful, it can also be demeaning and take away a person’s sense of independence. Instead, offer assistance or guidance in a respectful manner and allow them to do as much as they are able to on their own.

“You used to be so smart.” or “You used to know how to do this.”

These phrases can be hurtful and serve as a constant reminder of the changes that dementia has brought about. Instead, focus on the present and celebrate small victories and accomplishments together.

Positive & Reassuring Language

It’s important to use positive and reassuring language when communicating with someone with dementia. This can help boost their self-esteem, reduce any feelings of frustration or confusion, and create a more supportive environment. Here are some examples of positive and reassuring phrases:

  • “You’re doing great.”
  • “I appreciate your help.”
  • “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.”
  • “Let’s figure this out together.”
  • “You have a lot of valuable experience and knowledge.”

By using positive and reassuring language, we can help to maintain the dignity and self-worth of someone with dementia. It also shows that we are patient and understanding, which can create a more calming and comfortable environment for them.

Tips for Effective Communication

A woman having a lovely conversation with her older adult mother.

In addition to using validating, respectful, and positive language, there are also some tips that can help improve communication with someone who has dementia:

  • Speak clearly and slowly, using simple words and sentences.
  • Use non-verbal cues such as pointing or gesturing to help convey your message.
  • Try to maintain eye contact and use a calm and friendly tone.
  • Be patient and give the person enough time to process and respond.
  • Avoid asking open-ended questions, instead ask simple yes or no questions.
  • Use visual aids such as pictures or written notes to help with understanding.
  • Minimize distractions and try to have conversations in a quiet and comfortable environment.

Enhancing Communication & Care for Individuals Living With Dementia at Luna Senior Living

Remember, the words we use can have a significant impact on someone with dementia, so let’s choose them carefully and with kindness.  This can make a big difference in their day-to-day life and overall well-being.  Being mindful of our language is just one way that we can support and care for those living with dementia.

At Luna Senior Living, we understand the importance of effective communication with our residents. We strive to create a positive and inclusive environment where all individuals feel valued and respected. Contact us today to learn more about our memory care services and how we can support your loved one with dementia. 

Written by
Angela Clark

More Articles By
Angela Clark

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