CareAGE Connections

How to Talk to a Loved One With Memory Loss

One of the hardest parts of caring for a loved one with dementia is communicating with them in a meaningful way. Communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar disorder can be very frustrating for both of you, particularly if your loved one doesn’t always remember who you are. They may also think they live in a different time and place and speak from that perspective, without realizing that these times or events are now in the past.

The best thing you can do is to enter your loved one’s world, wherever that happens to be. Meeting them where they are is a way to engage with them in a peaceful, meaningful way.

If your loved one says, “They say that someday, they’ll able to land a man on the moon,” rather than saying that this has already taken place, you might reply, “Yes, they’re doing amazing things these days, aren’t they?” This may trigger other memories of amazing feats or events and allow you to have a conversation about “modern” miracles.

Validation, like this example, avoids the conflict and confusion that can arise when you try and tell your loved one that these events have already happened. Correcting your loved one or trying to get them to live in the “real” world can create frustration and anxiety or even make your loved one angry.

Here are two examples of a possible conversation between a mother and daughter. The first example uses correction, the second uses validation, which validates the person’s experience.

Correction

Father: Alright, it’s time for me to get ready for work. Shouldn’t you be heading to school?
Daughter: Dad, you’re retired. You haven’t work for nearly 15 years.
Father: That’s ridiculous, I’ve worked at the office for decades. Retirement is still years away!
Daughter: I’m going to call Mom. She’ll tell you.
Father: Don’t bother your mother at work!
Daughter: Dad, you’ve both been retired for years now. I’m calling Mom.

Validation

Father: Alright, it’s time for me to get ready for work. Shouldn’t you be heading to school?
Daughter: Oh? Are you working on any interesting projects?
Father: Well, my boss and I have been working together on the new budgets, and it’s just a mess.
Daughter: Oh, tell me more about that. Do you like your boss?
Father: He’s a funny fellow. He’s a big Red Sox fan.
Daughter: Red Sox? Me too! Have you watched baseball lately?
Father: I love watching the games!
Daughter: Let’s turn one on.

Here are some more tips to have a successful and meaningful conversation with your loved one:

  • Make eye contact and ensure your loved one is capable and willing to have a conversation. If they’re not in the mood, try an activity that doesn’t require conversation, like doing a puzzle or watching a movie.
  • Identify yourself. Make sure you have their full attention before you attempt to touch or embrace them.
  • Because long-term memories may remain intact, reminiscing about the past is a good way to have a conversation that is enjoyable for both of you.
  • Match their emotions and meet them where they are. If they are upset about something, telling them that everything is going to be okay won’t make the situation better. In fact, it may cause more distress. Instead, validate their feelings by telling them you understand and would feel the same way if such a thing were happening to you. Remember, we want to convey that their feelings are legitimate and valid.
  • Use words of encouragement and support. Knowing they have someone in their corner will allow them to relax around you and be more open.

 

Questions or concerns regarding the impact of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease? Come to join us at The Lakes for our Dementia Workshop for support and information. Friends and family members are welcome. Considering Memory Care for a loved one? We invite you too. No reservations required.