5 Things to Say (& Not to Say) If You See Signs of Dementia in a Loved One

Talking to them about it may be uncomfortable, but it's important not to put it off.

5 Things to Say (& Not to Say) If You See Signs of Dementia in a Loved One

Tackling the issue of dementia when it affects someone near and dear is very difficult, and it is hard to know how to discuss the subject with your affected loved one. However, it is important not to put it off. Just try to make sure it is a gentle encounter — for both of you.

Here are the experts' recommendations on having the first talk.


1. Before you decide to have the conversation with your loved one, talk to their doctor. Explain your concerns and arrange a check-up — perhaps for some other condition — so the physician can make a preliminary evaluation. Also, reach out to dementia caregiver groups for advice on broaching the subject.

2. When bringing up the subject to your loved one, talk about "memory problems," not "Alzheimer's" (you don't have that diagnosis yet). And ask, don't tell: Say things like, "Have you noticed that you are having some problems recalling details?"

3. Be patient and let the person participate in discussions and decision-making as much as they want and can.

4. Mention that memory problems can result from medications, vitamin B12 deficiency and thyroid issues — all of which are reversible. That's why a medical evaluation is important.

5. Allow for some conflict and confusion. The first conversation won't be your last and you may have to repeat yourself, but together you can find your best path to optimal care.

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