Dementia – Things to remember when talking to dementia sufferers

A year ago today my dear old dad died at the grand age of 94 of Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia. It caused me to reflect on the nature of the disease and offer here a few thoughts on how to cope with someone around you suffering with dementia.

It’s very frustrating when you aren’t used to dealing with a person suffering from Dementia, having to listen to them repeat themselves or asking the same question over and over again. Eventually the disease can end up with a person who has no ability to communicate at all verbally and it’s easy to dismiss them as “not there” any more, or not worth the effort to talk to.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And it’s probably best illustrated by a little story about my father. A week before he died, having reached a stage where the control of basic bodily functions had broken down, he was even unable to swallow properly, I went to visit.

I was going to take him out in his chair for a walk along the river but he needed a bit of a clean up after breakfast first. I asked the career in the home to give his face a wipe over and she kindly obliged.

He was a bit deaf, so she leant in close and shouted in his ear that she was just going to wash his face, he gave a small nod of understanding. When finished she said “there you go Frank all looking smart for a walk in the park”.

As she said this he leant forward. Thinking he was going to say something she moved back in close as his voice was very weak. As she did so he pecked her on the cheek.

That was his way of saying thank you, he couldn’t speak but it illustrates very well that although you might find the one sided conversation boring, the continued repeating of facts boring, the person is still in there. And although they may not be able to reply, they do understand. Even if they won’t be able to remember 5 minutes later.

So, the point of this video is just to remind people when dealing with a person with dementia. You aren’t in the conversation for what returns you can get. You are there to give. Time used relating old stories and showing old pictures will sometimes get through and bring back a smile to the sufferer in the same way a bit of their favorite music might lift them.

Try and share a sense of joy and happiness. Leave them feeling good about life. They may not always remember why but that feeling of well being will linger long after the memory has faded. Sharing moments like this will not only improve a dementia suffers life but it will also give you some happy memories too.

I’m Brian Russell of BRD Associates, if you are in interested in methods of helping record someone’s life and memories take a look at a few of the tips on my web site at on the Genealogy page under the video services tab.

Have a good day now and remember – conversation isn’t always a two way thing, but it’s still just as valuable. Further information on dementia can be found here.


Brian Russell

Copyright July 2015