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5 Phrases to Avoid When Talking to an Alzheimer's or Dementia Patient

By Ruby Cemental

Managing a patient with Alzheimer's can quickly wear on both your heart and mind. When they become agitated, you want to calm them down, but you may feel that you lack the tools. By preparing ahead of time, however, you can substantially increase the odds that you will be able to deescalate the situation. One method for keeping control is to remove these common phrases from your vocabulary when managing a loved one with Alzheimer's.

"You're wrong."

When interacting with a person with Alzheimer's or dementia, it's best not to argue with them about what they remember--or don't. Sometimes, it can be very frustrating when they fail to remember something important, but guiding the conversation gently will help prevent frustration for all parties.

"Do you remember...?"

Chances are, the answer is no. Rather than opening them up for embarrassment or discomfort, simply state the things that you remember. Ask open-ended questions when you can. Try to let them guide the conversation. You may be surprised by what they do remember!

"So-and-so is dead, remember?"

No, they don't. If they're talking about a deceased loved one as though they're alive, keep in mind that your loved one may be reliving a day many years in the past. Instead, take steps to direct the conversation positively. 

"Honey," "Dear," and other terms of endearment

In direct conversation, use the person's name whenever possible. Their name is precious to them. That sense of identity is important. 

"But..." 

The word "but" is very tempting in conversation with a loved one with Alzheimer's. Try replacing it with "nevertheless" instead of add a more positive note to the conversation. 

Talking to someone with Alzheimer's can be frustrating. By instituting a few basic rules to the conversation and watching what you say, however, you can have more successful conversations and enjoy more memories together. 

For more information on how to approach your loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia, refer to our family caregiver guide

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Ruby Cemental Blog Author

Tags: Alzheimer's & Dementia

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