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.

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near 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!


almost 2 years ago, said...

I have the opposite problem where professionals will continue to engage my father in law in a social history when he struggles with short-term memory, early onset Alzheimer's and some psychotic features. He will report that everything is "fine" or will become fixated on an issue unrelated to the doctor whom we are visiting. It is often difficult to discuss the presenting problem without hurting his feelings or engaging in a disagreement about the existence of his symptoms.


over 3 years ago, said...

This is especially helpful to me. I am a retired MD and have to really be carefully of that when accoanying my wife to her doctors.


over 4 years ago, said...

The doctor does often speak directly to me as Mother seems to be non-focused and/or not interested, But I should have realized she may be still be comprehending all or some of the conversation about her problems. She should be always included.


almost 5 years ago, said...

As a new caregiver I am trying to understand where this illness has taken my husbands mind... how to deal with so much. I want to respect him and not put him down. Frustration can so take over so fast!! Found these tips helpful and thought provoking. Thanks..


almost 5 years ago, said...

Important reminders for us all to consider. Many thanks.


about 5 years ago, said...

I agree with these statements. I've been guilty of speaking about my mother as if she was not present while talking to family, friends and medical staff. When she asked about whom we were speaking, my response was "a lady that I know" so as not to upset her. When she was told about what we were discussing, she would tend to argue and state she was not..., or she would remember..., or what was wrong with me... The babytalk I've not observed, but feel it would be a great disrespect of a person overy 80 years of age.


about 5 years ago, said...

lets respect this faithful sense of hearing in all of us, ill or not ill


about 5 years ago, said...

Thumbs up on this one! When I bring my Mom to the doctor, I try & position myself on the opposite side, slightly behind her. That way , the person can see me while looking at her and I can give the doctor high signs & still allow her to answer for herself. She's also very hard of hearing, so when she gets off track(and she does,often), I gently touch her arm & remind her what the doctor or others asked or said. People/doctors have picked up on this very well! But I have to be sure and be where she can see most of me or she gets paranoid. If there is something specific I want the doctor to know, I call ahead and give the doctor a heads up on a problem. Most nurses and doctors have been very receptive. I've also become a pretty good ventrilaquist:) Like I said, she's also hard of hearing!


about 5 years ago, said...

I totally agree with the above statements. Your loved one or anyone else deserves to be shown respect and dignity By excluding them from the conversation, talking to them using "we" when asking them a question and going to the extreme of baby talk is way over the line. We have to advocate these types of interactions be strongly discouraged and eventually eliminated from occurring.


about 5 years ago, said...

I agree with you Nate, and I think as there care needs increase, its important for them to still have their say , so they feel what they need, want, or like is respected. Its an awful thing to see them lose their 'grip' so to speak, but helping them thru it keeps their spirit up.


about 5 years ago, said...

The affrimation that speaking normally to my mother as if she hasn't changed is a good thing. She may not always understand, but she is still an adult and deserves to be treated that way.