Talking to a loved one about dementia

Lots of people are not sure how to start a conversation telling a loved one they think they may be showing signs of dementia. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s worth it. These are the Alzheimer’s Society’s tips to help people approach the subject in a sensitive way.

Take steps to get help when you’re worried about someone’s memory

  1. Plan a conversation in a familiar, non-threatening environment.
  2. Explain why talking is important – you’re worried because you care.
  3. Use examples to make things clearer.
  4. Have an open conversation – ask how they’re feeling about their memory.
  5. Make a positive plan of action together.

Top tips

  • Be positive – a diagnosis can give people access to the help and support they need, or the GP can help you rule out dementia and treat other symptoms. Raising concerns with your doctor can be a really positive step forward.
  • Make notes of situations that have worried you. Giving examples will help you express yourself in a clear and real way.
  • Don’t be upset if the person refuses to accept what you’re saying. Put yourself in their shoes – they may be frightened or confused.
  • Use non-judgemental language and make them feel at ease. Reassure them it’s not their fault.
  • Be ready to take action together. Once you’ve broached the subject, don’t hesitate. Book a doctor’s appointment so you’re working towards getting help.

Here are some leading questions that you can ask to start the conversation and explore how a person is feeling about their memory:

  • Have you been worrying about anything recently?
  • Have you been feeling different?
  • Are you finding anything more difficult at the moment?
  • Is there anything you would like to talk to me about?
  • Have you noticed any changes within yourself?
  • Are you ok? You seem to be concerned about something?

Find out more about the Alzheimer’s Society.

In Health and care

2 Responses to Talking to a loved one about dementia

  1. Lindylou says:

    This is incredibly difficult because many (potential) sufferers may be “covering up” and while knowing their memory is not so good, not wishing to admit to this. Loss of memory in the elderly is still seen as a stigma (all those old ladies shouting out in geriatric wards!). It takes a skilled practitioner to make a diagnosis in the early stages, particularly in younger, early-onset dementia cases. The approach advocated above, while sympathetic, is just simply what they don’t want to hear or admit to, leading to outright denial. Usually because it may evoke memories of someone in a previous generation who “went funny” in old age, and the person is scared stiff that their worst fears about themselves are going to be realised.
    Similarly: another huge difficulty is that the person affected is likely to be in denial anyway that something is wrong and simply refuses to discuss it. They feel they are being pushed by members of the family “to be put somewhere” when manifestly they cannot cope in the home on their own any longer. To get a possible dementia subject to see the doctor in the early stages – when the condition is suspected – is a really difficult job. Not many GPs will come out to visit either. If GPs were trained to watch out for this in the elderly (certainly over 80) for any routine appts with the doctor (eg blood tests etc) and then able to suggest to a relative that they bring the subject to see the doctor asap for a thorough check-over, this would help. Far too many younger relatives are trying to cope with older members with undiagnosed dementia, either at home, or at a distance, which is not good for the patient or the family.

  2. gUSTAVO DELGADO says:

    mY WIFE IS 83 YEAR old.Very energetic and active.She ges worry about the difficult she is experimenting to remember names of persons very familir to her.Should she visited a Dr.and what type of Dr.Thanks for your help

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