10 THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID SAYING TO A PERSON WITH DEMENTIA, & WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD!
1. "NO!" Avoid the negative and try to rephrase it in a benign way such as "Let's try it this way..."
2. "Don't do this/that!" You're treating them like a child. Instead say "What if we try it this way?"
3. "You can't..." Again, treating them like a child--how would you rephrase that if you were speaking to the President? Try "I have an idea, do you think this might work?"
4. "I don't want..." They really don't have the ability to care what you want! Try "I'm not feeling up for that just now, but maybe in an hour or so--thank you though!"
5. "You need to hurry..." They have lost the ability to "hurry" on your time schedule and will only become upset if forced. Try to remain calm, pleasant, and unrushed. Break down the steps of the task, and always allow extra time for all tasks. Being able to hurry is a thing of the past for them.
6. "Don't you remember me?" Obviously they don't and now you've just made them feel awful for forgetting. Always give hints when you arrive: "Hi Tom! It's me, Harry, the guy you used to always try to beat on the golf course!" "Hi Mom, it's your beautiful, youngest daughter, Annie here to keep you company."
7. "You've already told me that 10 times!" Again, treating them like a child. Smile, and act as if it's the first time you've heard it and then change the subject, otherwise their feelings are hurt and they may get angry.
8. "You never...anymore." They've likely lost the ability to ever do/say what you're wanting. Don't go there. You're just opening the door for hurt and a possible argument. It's okay to grieve the loss, but not where they can see or hear you because they can't help you with it now.
9. "Don't tell me you forgot it again!" Obviously they did, but they can't help it, and you're scolding them like a child. Instead, you take the blame and minimize the importance of it. "Oh, I must have forgotten to tell you! I'm so sorry! I'll reschedule it for you."
10. "Remember now, you're not supposed to be driving." Count on them NOT to remember that! Hide the keys and disable the car. Blame the decision on the doctor if you need to, but realize this is a huge loss of independence for this person so tread gently, but firmly.
Try to always be kind, gentle and calm with this person. Anything else could easily lead to frustration, agitation and failed attempts.