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Dementia Dos and Donts

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  • Dementia Dos and Donts
  • Posted date:
  • 09-04-2016
Dementia Dos and Donts

Dementia Dos and Dont's

As you come to terms with a dementia diagnosis, you may be worried about how your loved one will change, how you’ll communicate with them and how you’ll cope with the daily challenges of life together.

Adjusting can be difficult and you will need time and support to adapt. Many people feel lost, confused and afraid of doing the wrong thing. We all make mistakes, so go easy on yourself and have a look at these tips to help avoid any pitfalls.


People with dementia often have problems communicating. They may struggle to find the right word or have difficulty following a conversation. This can make them lose confidence and withdraw from social situations. It can be frustrating for family and friends but there are ways to help them understand and keep the lines of communication open.


  • Speak slightly more slowly and use simple words and sentences.
  • Maintain eye-contact, this will help them focus on you alone.
  • Think about your gestures and facial expressions. Non-verbal communication is very important to people with Alzheimer’s and they will pick up on any anger or anxiety.
  • Include them in conversations and don ‘t try to answer questions for them or complete their sentences.
  • Listen. Give them time to express their feelings and focus on what they are saying. Turn off the TV or radio so that there are no distractions.
  • Be prepared to repeat things many times and try not to let any frustration show.
  • Avoid using pronouns like he, she or it. Instead use the name of the person or object, which is clearer and easier to understand.
  • Use direct questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Instead of ‘what did you think of lunch?’ ask ‘did you like the soup for lunch?’


  • Complicate things by talking in long paragraphs; offer one idea at a time.
  • Be patronizing or use baby talk.
  • Be sarcastic. It can be tricky to understand and may be hurtful.
  • Challenge their memory by asking if they remember recent events. Avoid saying ‘Do you remember?” or ‘Have you forgotten?” which can be humiliating and upsetting.
  • Make sudden movements, as these may shock them and cause distress.
  • Stand too close to them, they may feel intimidated.

Maintaining independence and self-esteem

As the dementia progresses, an individual may gradually lose their independence and rely on others for care and support. Where possible support them to do things themselves, this can maintain their confidence and dignity and help them stay independent for longer.


  • Have regular routines. Stick to keep consistent times for meals, bathing, activities and bed. Set routines can improve function and will feel familiar and safe.
  • Keep them active. Encourage them to do achievable household chores to maintain a sense of purpose and achievement.
  • Do things together so that you can provide a helping hand.
  • Be patient, allow a longer time to get tasks done and offer plenty of reassurance and praise.
  • Break down jobs into simple, manageable stages.
  • Encourage social interaction and maintain friendships and interests.


  • Take over if they are struggling with a task, instead offer support and assistance.
  • Belittle or criticize them, it may destroy their confidence.
  • Get angry if they make a mistake or have an accident, be supportive and understanding.

Coping with feelings and emotions

A dementia diagnosis may leave your loved one feeling sad, angry, shocked or disbelieving and afraid for the future. The disease can make it difficult to process and express their feelings and they will need help from those around them to reassure and support.


  • Try to understand how they are feeling.
  • Listen patiently to their worries and concerns.
  • Reassure them that you are there for them.
  • Focus on the positive without dismissing their fears.
  • Try to enjoy the moment and your time together.
  • Consider a support group where they can share their experiences with others.


  • Dismiss their worries, pay attention and show that you care.
  • Spend lots of time worrying and fearing for what the future holds.
  • Interrupt and distract, although them the space to express their emotions.

References and Further Research



ALzheimers net

Alzheimer's Society