When someone we care about is dealing with a difficult ordeal, we want to offer practical advice or comforting words with the right intentions. However, poor choice of words can hurt rather than help the person who is on the receiving end.
What you need to know about dementia
What is dementia?
It’s important to gather the facts, signs, symptoms, and myths for a start before you learn to adapt to their condition and changing behaviour. Here’s what you need to know about dementia.
Often we human beings want to say the right words at the right time, be it to inspire others or to brighten someone’s day, but have we ever thought about what not to say?
Speaking to someone dealing with a progressive medical condition like dementia can be challenging, especially when the conversation doesn’t make sense for either party. Take the time to educate yourself about the medical condition and learn to navigate conversations with someone living with dementia.
Dementia is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in cognitive functions. In other words, the medical condition causes the brain cells to die at a faster rate than normal.
There are many causes of dementia and they affect people differently. Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80per cent of dementia cases.
Contrary to popular belief, dementia, while more prevalent among older adults, is not a part of normal ageing. If someone develops dementia before the age of 65, they have what is known as young-onset dementia, or alternatively working age dementia or early-onset dementia. The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2018 found that 8.5 per cent of Malaysians above age 60 have dementia.
What are the symptoms? The most common symptom of dementia is poor memory. Other warning signs include communication problems, decreased judgement, changes in mood, and withdrawal from social activities.
People living with dementia do not all experience the same type of symptoms. The nature and severity of the symptoms progress over time and change across the stages: mild, moderate and severe. As they each have their own unique experiences and life stories, let’s treat them with respect and dignity. What not to say to or about someone with dementia
This is an honest mistake often made with the intention of showing courtesy, typically common among us Asians when visiting a distant relative or an old family friend. The short (and simple) answer is no, but asking this question can lead to feelings of disappointment or embarrassment as the person may not remember, but is able to recognise that they’ve lost memories. Similar questions to avoid are “Do you recognise (family member/friend)?” or “Do you remember (event/time/place)?”
“Do you remember me?” Now that you’ve learned the basic facts of dementia, let’s take a look at five choice phrases and questions to avoid saying when speaking to or about someone with dementia.