3 Traps to Avoid When Talking to Someone With Dementia

talking to someone with dementia

Someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can’t carry on a conversation the same way they used to because of the changes in their brain. Without realizing, we might put them under pressure if we communicate in ways that don’t work well for them. To avoid causing frustration or anger, Caring.com shares 3 pitfalls to steer clear of when talking to someone with dementia.

 

1. Don’t ask why

Consider dropping the word why from your vocabulary.

Though it’s tempting to ask someone with dementia questions such as, “Why did you do that?” or “Why don’t you like your soup today? You liked it yesterday,” he or she really has no idea what’s causing particular behaviors. The disease has likely stolen the ability to reason or evaluate.

Why it backfires:
You risk causing unnecessary anxiety by making your loved one feel like he or she is being “tested” – and is failing.




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2. Don’t shout

Some people have a natural tendency to raise their voices around the elderly. The trouble is, Alzheimer’s and other dementias may affect many parts of the body, but the ears aren’t among them.

Why it backfires:
Raising your voice can startle someone who didn’t pick up on other cues you were coming. Or it can be perceived as threatening and angry, even when you’re just asking, “Do you want some coffee?”

 

3. Don’t answer the same question over and over

You can feel like you’re aboard the merry-go-round if someone with dementia gets on a jag of asking, “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “What time is it?”

You want to be polite, but you can’t be driven crazy, either.

Why it backfires:
It’s much more stimulating for your loved one if you shift to fresh topics.

Try saying something likely to get a response, such as, “You must miss your childhood in Canada” (old memories last a long time) or “Tell me about your knitting” (an immediate interest).

 

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Guest contributor: ​Caring.com’s mission is to help the helpers. We equip family caregivers to make better decisions, save time and money, and feel less alone – and less stressed – as they face the many challenges of caregiving. Visit our site at www.caring.com to find helpful articles, support groups, and a comprehensive directory of local senior care resources.

 

Image: Line Home Care Services

 

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