Language and communication play a significant role in making someone’s day or destroying it, especially when it comes to speaking to your loved one with dementia. Dementia is something that should not be taken lightly while talking. Essentially, caregivers need to know the value of the right words so they can respond with patience and tolerance to individuals with dementia.
Here are five things not to say to someone with dementia and what you say instead.
1. You Are Not Right
It’s challenging to show tolerance to someone talking absurd or untruthful statements. However, caregivers should give up their arguments in cognitive decline cases and avoid upsetting their loved ones with dementia. Dementia seniors are more likely to be in an emotionally vulnerable condition and can suddenly get triggered by your argument. Hence, it’s better to leave the conversation just as it is and let them say whatever they want.
Distract the discussion and try not to fight with them. Shifting the conversation to something your loved ones like makes them feel good and happy. Change the subject and never say that you are not right in this dialogue.
2. Remember When?
Making your elderly ones with dementia remember something may force them to think about their memory loss and can be a painful and frustrating experience. However, your tongue could slip for a while during communication without even realization. But doing it with intent is not healthy at all. Most family caregivers ask their seniors if they remember something or not. Yet, it could be intimidating for individuals with dementia to think about their pasts.
All you need to do in this situation is avoid talking about their past, especially if there are some painful incidents. Try not to make them recall anything from the past life.
You can say I remember when this or that happened. It is how you hold on to good memories. Your loved ones with dementia are more likely to search your recalled memory with a calm state of mind without getting embarrassed.
For instance, you can say, I remember when we used to eat dinner at your favorite restaurant, went on long walks, or journeyed together.
3. Do You Recognize Me?
Someone with dementia goes through severe memory-related problems. It’s because their brain cells have interfered, and their capabilities to convey messages by communication to each other are damaged. It causes severe memory loss issues in patients with dementia. Therefore, being a caregiver, asking your loved one if they can recognize you or not, makes them feel embarrassed eventually. Because in most cases, they do not, and trying hard to do that leads them to distress. They are more likely to feel guilty or offended due to this question, especially when they end up failing to recognize you.
Keep things in a friendly manner and greet your elderly with dementia in a calm way. It is how you can alter their mood, and they can recognize you with your name somehow. Start it with a warm greeting and ask how they are feeling. It gives them a benevolent feeling by your side and may help them say your name.
4. I Have Just Told You
It could be frustrating for a caregiver to repeat things, but this is how it works for individuals with dementia. You need to build tolerance while talking to them because this is what love and care demand. Make yourself remember that it is not their fault if they undergo dementia, and try to be gentle with them. Make your mind that being a caregiver requires repetition. Saying I have just told you can be excruciating as you make them remember their dementia and upset their mood.
Repeat things calmly, and do not let them feel that you have already told them. It’s high time that you handle their condition politely without getting frustrated. It really matters that people with dementia feel like there is someone who listens and supports them. Whatever they ask, all you need to do is stay calm and repeat even if you have already told for ten times.
5. This Accident Happened
A person living with dementia struggles with life. However, one benefit of their memory loss is that they do not even remember misfortunate things that happened in their life. Being a caretaker, it is your responsibility that you do not let them remind their loved one’s death or accidents. Saying that they passed away, your brother died, your sister was in a coma, etc., can be unbearably painful for individuals with dementia. They are not likely to handle this stress. It’s on caregivers how they remember not to remind or tell bad news. These topics can be highly sensitive for patients with dementia, and they are likely to hurt themselves. Unexplained bruising and cuts could be outcomes of such topics.
If somebody is not present, you need to provide a better reason for their absence instead of being harsh and telling the truth. You can also change the topic by distracting attention to interesting subjects they most enjoy. Specifically, the later stages of dementia can be very damaging after telling that a person has died or was injured, etc. Hence, try to hide such news and not discuss if something like that happened in the past.
People with dementia are challenging to tackle as they are in their most vulnerable state of mind without reminding things. They constantly need support and care without even being mentioned. Speaking things that can lead to several problems for your loved ones with dementia is hurtful. Try to train your mind not to say what damages their state of mind. Understand their thought process and love them unconditionally. Being a caregiver, learn to be patient with your loved ones and care selflessly.
- World Health Organization. (2019). iSupport for dementia: Training and support manual for carers of people with dementia.
- Sharp, B. K. (2019). Stress as experienced by people with dementia: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Dementia, 18(4), 1427-1445.
- Davison, T. E., Camões-Costa, V., & Clark, A. (2019). Adjusting to life in a residential aged care facility: Perspectives of people with dementia, family members and facility care staff. Journal of clinical nursing, 28(21-22), 3901-3913.