As people advance in age into their golden years, occasional forgetfulness is normal. However, some elderly individuals experience more concerning memory issues than normal lapses for people of an older age. Many seniors develop memory problems as a result of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
Having an elderly loved one who is suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be difficult. Memory troubles can cause them to become embarrassed or agitated, putting them in an uncomfortable state. You do not want to upset your loved ones, but you might find yourself unintentionally doing that based on the things you say to them. If you know what subjects to avoid, then you give yourself and your loved one a better chance at pleasant, enjoyable conversations that are free of negativity.
Continue reading for guidance on how to converse with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and what to avoid saying during conversations with them.
1. Do Not Ask What They Remember
It is natural to want to know what exactly your elderly loved one remembers. So, it can be tempting to ask about certain events, topics, or people and whether they recall such information. However, it is better to avoid asking seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia what they remember or if they specifically remember something. More often than not, the individual will unfortunately not recall the subject. This may prompt them to become embarrassed or even agitated due to their inability to remember.
If you want to bring up something from the past, frame it as a statement of you recalling something. For example, you could mention a memory you have with them. This frames the situation as something from your memory instead of their own. The individual then has the opportunity to reflect on the moment if they would like to.
2. Do Not Tell Them They’re Wrong
No one likes to be wrong, and this includes people who have dementia. If your elderly loved one brings something up that is incorrect, it’s better to leave them be. Do not tell them they are wrong and correct them. This correction can make them feel bad and create an upsetting situation.
3. Do Not Start an Argument
Arguments are never a good idea with someone who has dementia. Not only are you unlikely to win the argument, but you might just end up making your loved one angry and/or upset. Chances are the argument will not be worth it, so it is better to avoid the disagreement. If you and your loved one get into an altercation and you are having trouble moving past it, consider changing the subject to something positive that will interest them. This should help them forget about the dispute.
4. Do Not Remind Them of Loved Ones’ Deaths
Unless an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient specifically asks you if a loved one is gone, then do not inform them of a loved one’s death. Seniors with dementia have been known to wonder about the whereabouts of a spouse or other loved one who is deceased, unable to recall their death. However, letting them know about a loved one’s death can put them in an angry, unstable state. It may also cause them to re-experience the grief and pain they initially experienced.
5. Do Not Bring Up Potentially Upsetting Topics
In general, if a topic is likely to upset a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, then it is best to simply not bring up the topic. The affected individual will likely become angry and/or upset, creating a difficult situation for everyone involved.
6. Do Not Ask Open-Ended Questions
People like to have choices, but too many options can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. Trying to figure out what they truly want can be stressful. Knowing this, opt for asking them close-ended questions that are easier to answer.
For example, do not ask your loved one what they would like to eat. Instead, ask them whether they want a specific food, or provide two different options: “Do you want a sandwich or soup?” This format makes it easier for them to figure out their answer when presented with one or two choices instead of several.
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With help from our dementia caregivers, you can trust that your loved one will be properly cared for in their home.