Senior woman smiling with caregiver

When your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be very upsetting and heartbreaking for you to experience as the disease progresses. You are probably feeling very sad at the fact that your parent might not seem like themselves anymore or might not be able to remember things as efficiently as they did before. It may also become hard to understand them, and you may not know how to effectively communicate with them. You don’t want to say things that will upset your parent, but there are ways to still have productive and fulfilling conversations if you know what words or questions to avoid.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that impacts the brain’s ability to function correctly. Someone who has this disease will experience problems with memory loss, confusion, comprehension, communication and judgment. Alzheimer’s disease can also cause changes to one’s personality and decrease their ability to function mentally and physically as the disease progresses.

3 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease will have a different effect on each person, but it typically progresses in three separate stages.

Early Stage. Your parent might find it more difficult to learn new information, remember something that just happened or plan an activity that requires executive functioning.

Middle Stage. This is where your parent’s ability to think clearly becomes more difficult. It’s common that in this stage, long-term memories begin to fade, emotional and behavioral changes occur, and your parent’s visual and spatial abilities will decline.

Late Stage. In this last stage, your parent’s physical functioning will decline, making tasks like walking or getting dressed incredibly difficult for them. It is in this stage that your parent will need a caregiver the most to help them with their basic needs.

Watching your parent go through these stages can be heartbreaking and frustrating. But you can still help make life enjoyable for them and continue having valuable conversations, as long as you know what phrases or questions to avoid.

What Not to Say to Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

It can often be difficult and emotionally draining when you try to speak with your parent as they progress through Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can lead to conversations that might not make sense, make you feel uncomfortable, or cause you to say something accidentally that makes your parent upset.

Here are some common questions and statements you should not say to your parent during conversations:

  1. “Do You Remember?” This is a common question that tends to come up in everyday conversation. You might not even notice when you ask your parent if they remember something, but there’s a good chance your parent will not remember what you’re asking about. Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and when your parent is unable to remember something, this can make them feel embarrassed or upset as they realize they’re beginning to lose their memories.
  1. “Do You Recognize Me?” It can be very upsetting when you notice that your parent no longer recognizes you. Try to avoid repeatedly asking them if they know who you are, as this can prompt them to feel guilty if they’re unsure. An approach you can take instead, is to greet your parent kindly and re-introduce yourself to them by stating your name.
  1. I Already Told You That.” Something you can expect when speaking with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease is repeating yourself often. Chances are you will find yourself telling your parent the same thing over and over again. Do your best to be patient with them and avoid telling them they’ve made you repeat yourself, as this could remind your parent of their disease and upset them.
  1. “You’re Wrong.” Nobody likes to hear that they’re wrong, especially someone who is dealing with high levels of confusion and memory loss. You may find it very difficult to go along with something your parent says that is false, but there is no benefit in arguing with them over it.
  1. “What Do You Want to Eat?” If you can, try to avoid asking your parent open-ended questions. Questions like this can trigger a lot of stress, as they may find it difficult to formulate an answer. Avoiding open-ended questions will take the pressure off your parent and allow them to avoid having to make a decision.

Overall, when interacting and communicating with your parent, ask yourself how you would like to be treated. This approach works as a guide for how to ensure you’re treating your parent with the love and respect they deserve.

Experience Compassionate Memory Care at Fellowship Senior Living

At Fellowship Senior Living, we offer residents a state-of-the-art Memory Care program, located on our beautiful senior living campus in Somerset County, New Jersey. With our Memory Care program, every minute of every day, a nurturing team member is available to help your parent.

Our Memory Care team is specially trained in dementia care and offers the following amenities and services: Certified dementia practitioners, private suites, a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day, physical therapy, personal training, hospice care and more.

To learn more about how our Memory Care program can help your parent with Alzheimer’s disease, please contact us today at 908-580-3840.