Let’s Talk: How to Discuss Dementia with a Loved One

Your parent was likely your caretaker for years, so a role reversal can be uncomfortable. Add the pressure of pointing out possible memory loss, and the conversation may get even trickier.

Here are some tips to help you have a calm and effective discussion about your loved one’s dementia.

Do Your Research Before the Discussion

Bringing your mom’s memory loss to her attention might be upsetting for her. That’s why it’s important to present her with evidence of her condition. Monitoring your mom’s dementia symptoms and evaluating them with other loved ones who have noticed the problem will help you convince your mom of her need for assistance.

Early signs of dementia include:

  • Difficulty completing daily tasks or familiar activities
  • Memory loss that affects daily living
  • Changes in hygiene and eating habits
  • Poor reasoning or judgment
  • Frequently misplacing or losing belongings
  • Trouble with spatial awareness
  • Mood swings or personality changes
  • Confusion about time and location
  • Social withdrawal

If your mom is in a more advanced stage of dementia, you may also notice:

  • Increased anxiety or agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Unfounded paranoia or suspicions
  • Repetitive actions or questions
  • Wandering or getting lost

Consult your mom’s primary physician or another healthcare professional, such as a neurologist that specializes in neurodegenerative disease, to discuss your suspicions about her memory loss.

Discussing Dementia

How you approach the matter will determine the success of your discussion. However, be prepared for a variety of responses from your parent.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Talk with your dad when he’s at his best and there are limited distractions, including background noise and other people.
  • Start with a question to create a more open forum. Try presenting your case by asking, “Have you noticed any changes in your memory lately?”
  • Be patient. Dementia often affects communication skills, so speak slowly and allow your mom time to process your words and respond.
  • Use this opportunity to present your case, but focus on the positive impacts of early diagnosis and how it can help your dad lead an independent life.
  • Don’t respond in anger, even if your mom gets upset. If the conversation turns into an argument, suggest putting it aside for a later date.
  • Be supportive and allow your dad to express his feelings. Acknowledging his emotions will make him feel heard and validated.
  • Consider bringing a partner, especially someone your mom holds in high regard, who can support your claims.

Why it’s Important to Talk About Dementia

Having the dementia discussion with your mom or dad may lead to an earlier diagnosis. If your parent is receptive to your observations, encourage them to seek medical advice and testing to confirm their condition.

Seeking early treatment will help your parent manage their symptoms and reduce the overall impact of their diagnosis. They may even be able to slow the progression of their memory loss.

Talking with your mom or dad about dementia is also good for you and your loved ones because this disease doesn’t just impact the affected individual. There are professional services and support groups that can help you and your parent cope with the changes in their condition.

Kemper House Worthington is dedicated to helping families learn about memory loss and offers a variety of educational resources. Call 614-896-8700 or contact us online for more information.