All Alzheimer's Symptoms

When it happens: Cursing can begin in any stage of dementia, especially moderate.

Why it happens: In someone with dementia, swearing is rarely completely intentional. It's part of a host of language problems that often strike and that are slightly different from person to person. Lost inhibition may be allowing the brain's language processing centers to release formerly self-censored words. He or she may in fact be trying to communicate a different sentiment entirely. Cursing often shows up in otherwise mild-mannered adults who never misspoke before.

What you can do:

  • Avoid shaming the person or urging your loved one to hold his or her tongue in front of children.

  • Don't act shocked or even startled. These reactions change the vibe in the room without changing the behavior, which can't be helped.

  • Act as if you didn't hear anything. As with a young child, drawing attention to the word may cause it to be used again, to spark the reaction.

  • Alternately, in some people it works to matter-of-factly correct: "We don't use that word, Bob." Then distract.

  • In public or among company, simply smile apologetically and (discreetly) explain that your loved one has dementia and cursing is an unfortunate side effect for some people.

  • Explain to children that the person has a "brain disease" that makes him or her talk funny and say things that aren't meant (and are not to be repeated!).