To Get Information From Someone With Moderate Dementia, Try Phrasing Your Question in the Third Person

Sometimes people with moderate-stage dementia find it easier to talk about themselves indirectly. It can feel unappealing or even threatening to be asked things directly, as in, "What do you think?" So when looking for insights or opinions from your loved one, try asking questions that are phrased about third parties. It may sound odd -- but it often yields the kind of information you're looking for.

Consider phrases like these:

  • "What did your mother used to do when. . . ?"

  • "When I was a girl, I thought [mention a topic you'd like to explore]. What about you?"

  • "What do you think [name of spouse] would have said about that?"

  • "If the dog could talk, I wonder what he'd be saying about this?"

  • "What do you suppose [name of spouse or another loved one] would have said about that?"

Obviously your comments need to suit the conversation, and not all people with moderate-stage dementia will be able to respond to these imagined conversations. But know that sometimes the most direct way into your loved one's mind is through a side door.

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

over 1 year, said...

I stopped saying "what do you think: " a long time ago because of the quizzical look I would get back.

almost 4 years, said...

I try to create a "what if" question. "What if you were in that situation, what would you do. Sometimes it helps to get the conversation started, but not always. He answers a few words, then is off in his "own world" again.

over 4 years, said...

Thanks, will try this way of getting some information from DH. How do you do it with pain, feelings, etc.?

about 6 years, said...

I will try this method of Question in the Third Person. He has a hard time comunicating in a group situation.

over 6 years, said...

Yes, especially as I also try to help my mom communicate with my Das.