Blog Hero

What Not to Say to Someone With Memory Loss

Schedule a Visit
A senior woman sitting on a sofa at home looking at a photograph trying to remember it.

Memory loss isn’t a guaranteed part of getting older. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon, though. This leads to things like special memory care communities. A senior living in a community like this typically receives specialized care to ensure their safety and quality of life.

The team in a memory care community is usually specially trained to deal with the potential complications that could arise from diseases or conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. But if you’re simply acting as a loved one’s caregiver, you likely don’t have any special training.

Knowing what not to say to someone with memory loss in a situation like this could be valuable knowledge. For example, avoiding certain questions or discussions and complex instructions is important.

What Not to Say to Someone With Memory Loss

Each situation is unique, and these may not all be applicable. These tips should bring you to a place of being more aware of your conversations with someone dealing with memory loss.

Do You Remember When…?

This could be an unfair type of question, depending on the senior’s level of memory loss. The problem with this question is that it can lead to shame or anger if the senior cannot remember what you’re asking.

If you do want to bring up a past event or memory with someone dealing with memory loss, it’s not impossible. You could try rephrasing the questions as a statement: “I remember when…” This allows you to reminisce without the other person possibly not remembering and becoming flustered or embarrassed.

Avoid Discussing Bringing Up Lost Loved Ones

The pain of losing someone they love might not go away for some people. If this happens to someone who has memory loss, they may not even remember their loss. It wouldn’t normally be a big deal to discuss the loss for most people. But if an aging adult forgets that someone has passed away, bringing it up could cause them to basically restart the grieving process over again.

Avoid Open-Ended Questions

In most circumstances, open-ended questions are a great way to foster stimulating conversation with a friend. Unfortunately, as someone develops more advanced memory issues, open-ended questions could become increasingly more difficult for them to understand.

It may be impossible to avoid these types of questions at all times. But you should ask mostly yes or no questions.

Do You Know Who I Am?

When someone is struggling with memory loss, forgetting family member’s and close friend’s names, or getting them mixed up. This is especially true during the more advanced stages of memory loss.

You should avoid putting an aging adult on the spot by asking if they know who you are. Another consideration is that in a situation where the person does recognize you, they may feel patronized or mocked if you ask them whether they know you or not.

A senior male touching his head tries to construct his thoughts while having an interview with a doctor.

Avoid Long, Complex Sentences or Instructions

Long or complex instructions can be hard to follow at the best of times. But suppose a person is struggling to remember things in the first place. In that case, long and complex instructions could be nearly impossible for them.

Sometimes complex tasks are required. In situations like this, breaking the task into step-by-step instructions could give the person enough mental space to follow along. The same applies to general conversation. Sentences should be kept short and direct to avoid confusion.

Common Causes of Memory Loss

Many people only associate old age with memory loss. And age is certainly a risk factor in developing memory problems. But it isn’t the only thing, so let’s look at some of the most common causes of memory loss:

  • Dementia: This umbrella term covers several conditions and diseases that affect memory and cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
  • Medications: Several prescription drugs like benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants or isotretinoin and ciclosporin have all been linked to memory loss.
  • Trauma or injury: Head injuries at any age could also lead to memory loss. This is a major reason why it’s important to protect your head by following safety procedures and wearing protective equipment like helmets.

Discuss the Future

Seniors who are dealing with memory loss may require special care if the symptoms become more than general forgetfulness. In a situation where the primary caregiver is a relative or close friend, respite care could be an option for those times when they need a break.If you or a loved one are considering retirement communities in Mahwah, give us a call. Our helpful team is happy to answer all your questions or book a community tour so you can see it yourself.

Ryan Donahue

Written by Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President

More Articles By Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax