Dementia and Smiling

Dementia and the Loss of the Social Smile

The ability to smile often disappears late in dementia. For some people, the mind-body disconnect means that the muscles forget how to manage even this seemingly reflexive movement. Others, lacking social awareness, fail to register the experiences that used to trigger a smile. This ability seems to vary by person.

What is helpful to know about this loss of the social smile?

  • You can't take it personally if your loved one no longer smiles. It's a developmental decline, not a deliberate move.

  • Don't assume that your loved one has no capacity for love or joy. Even though these emotions flow mainly in one direction, the person is still soaking up positive feelings from you.

  • You just might still see a wisp of a grin. Lucidity is known to come and go in severe dementia. So if a hint of smile happens, consider it a gift.

    SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You


4 months ago, said...

My dad today was unable to smile for a photo. He tried really hard with his eyes and mouth wide open. He still winked at me and said I love you when I hugged him. It's such a sad disease for those of us who love someone with it, but I hope he is not suffering as he loses his ability to do all the things we take for granted. What is his experience? Is he suffering? Does he grieve along with us? Does he know what is happening? These are questions I can't help but ask myself every time I visit him.


10 months ago, said...

one smile makes it all worthwhile.


almost 2 years ago, said...

My mother in law only smiles when children are present


almost 2 years ago, said...

That is the one thing that we have been grateful for- My Mom's happy disposition, although lately I have been seeing instances of a stare and no emotion mixed in with her great smile. Probably the beginning of what you are describing


about 2 years ago, said...

My mother in law just went back home to be with her oldest daughter . my mother in law is 79 now , there are three siblings that we are all taking turns taking care of her in this time of need. She suffers from dementia has been 2007 when she lost her husband . my father in law was a great man and always took care of his wife. Seeing her go through this is very hard on the family. I notice a lot of changed I. Sure everybody does. We all include her in all functions and outings . the grandkids I believe keep her going that's when all smiles come out. We will not see her for one month now, I just look in her room even when I know she's not there. I still call but its not the same her not being here.


over 3 years ago, said...

My husband has Parkinson's dementia like the anonymous reader who left a comment 8 mos ago. I am wondering how her husband is doing today? My husband sounds exactly the same-it is like being on a roller coaster ride with a few really good days when he seems to function quite well and then I wait for the bottom to drop out when he can barely function and is totally confused. I have been caring for him at home but I finally had to look for help from our local VNA because I am really exhausted trying to care for him. He is in the late mid-stage and is having a very hard time communicating his wishes and needs. I rarely see any comments from caregivers of this kind of dementia, that is different from Alzheimers, so it is helpful to know about others afflicted with it. My husband also has Capgras Syndrome which his neurologist says is a result of long term use of Parkinson's meds. I and others in the family look familiar to him but he believes we are actually imposters and not who we say we are. Such a sad disease.


over 3 years ago, said...

We must all keep in mind that we are all in different but the same place, some are novices and some have the wealth of many years of experience. Take from here what is helpful and leave what is not... I come here for peace and to be with others that understand our agony, pain and even joys... Love and hugs to all on this journey with me...


almost 4 years ago, said...

Just when you think that you have the understanding of behaviors - Bingo, you learn more. The more I learn the less I know !!! This article however was helpful, thank you.


about 4 years ago, said...

Yes, this is good info. My husband with Parkinson's dementia actually has been smiling a little more lately. He seems to be on a roller coaster with his ability to follow daily routines. One day is good and the next day or 2 he will be in an extreme confused state. I can't plan ahead anymore, never knowing if he can handle doing something on a particular day. I haven't figured out what triggers his "bad days". I guess it is just the progression of the disease and is to be expected.


about 4 years ago, said...

My husband weighted about 195 and started losing weight about 5 years ago. Went down to 150 and stayed there until this year when he went to 140 and stayed for a while. Now he is 136 and holding. It is just what happens. My husband eats well, but I don't think the food is absorbed like it should be. My husband has diabetes so have to limit carbs, but I think it is all part of the disease.


about 4 years ago, said...

my husband has FTD and is in early to mid severe level. He originally weighted around 225 and lost abt 35# in a year and 1/2 and now has lost 14 # in one month. He eats well, but not alot. Why is he losing weight? What can I do?


about 4 years ago, said...

My husband will still smile for some people. I rarely/never get a smile and most of the grandkids don't get a smile anymore. In fact he no longer enjoys the children which is very sad for me. Thanks.


over 4 years ago, said...

WE ARE BLESSED THAT OUR MOTHER IS STILL SMILING EVERYDAY SHE WILL EVEN GIVE A BIG LAUGH WHEN HER GRANDSON IS AROUND


over 4 years ago, said...

Helpful but nothing new to me - mother has this for the last 20 years and my brother and I have never married to take care of her so I know all about the disease so please let me alone in my misery.


over 4 years ago, said...

When I was caring for my mother before she passed away three months ago, I did notice that her ability to smile and express emotions was declining. However, every once in a while I would be able to get a smile from her by just showing her that I cared and loved her and that even if she didn't talk and smile much, her presence and limited responses were well received. I miss her terribly and think about our time together often.


over 4 years ago, said...

Positive feedback - have a mother with this symptom and have been taking care of her for more than 20 years - what can I say it has humbled me and brought me closer to Our Lord (Jesus). They say in Greek folklore that: "Pain is the ring that Our Lord offers to His chosen ones" you ponder for yourself what this means. God bless us all...amen!


over 4 years ago, said...

Many, in fact most, of the articles are helpful. Thank you for your site. I turn to it often when I need a pick-up for either Dad or ourselves. Blessings to all fellow carers and their loved ones.


over 4 years ago, said...

Very much, ty..


over 4 years ago, said...

Thankyou!!


over 4 years ago, said...

Once in a while my mum smiles at me, Lord I miss that smile but then when doesn't I used to take it personally. Not anymore