3 Common "Disrespect Traps" of Dementia Care

Operating from a base of respect makes dealing with difficult circumstances far more manageable for everyone when a loved one has dementia. Here are three common forms of disrespect that people interacting with someone with mild and moderate dementia often use.

1. Talking about your loved one as if he or she isn't right there.

Dementia doesn't affect one's hearing, and it can be hurtful to be referred to in conversation as if you weren't there. If a doctor, for example, directs conversation only to you the caregiver, or refers to the patient in the third person as if he or she is invisible, call him or her on it (nicely, of course). People often do this in the interest of saving time, but it's disrespectful to ignore the patient entirely. Ditto when friends visit and you're updating them on your loved one's condition.

2. Using the royal "we."

Your loved one is still a person (in large part, the same person). Avoid saying things like, "Are we hungry?" when you mean "you," not both of you.

3. Baby talk.

Having dementia may cause some seemingly juvenile behaviors, but it obviously hasn't taken any years off your loved one's life. He or she is the same person, inside and out. Talking down to someone with dementia is insulting, not sweet -- unless you've always addressed each other in this fashion. In fact, baby talk isn't even recommended for babies anymore!


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio