Your Parent’s Dementia Diagnosis – Finding the Right Words to Say

No matter how much we evolve and how significantly we develop our language skills, there will always be times when we’ll be at a loss of words. Times such as when you meet someone who has recently lost someone close, or when you find out that a loved one has just been diagnosed with a disease such as cancer or dementia.

All your life it’s been your parents who have known what to say, and how to say it. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a reversal of roles, with you having become the caregivers and the parents becoming dependent on you. Role reversal in itself is a big change which comes with its own set of psychological issues and dilemmas; that can actually take some time adjusting, according to further studies.

The first thoughts that strike you aren’t even thoughts but an amalgam of the feelings of confusion, disbelief, and despair.

Why did this happen to my parent?”

Have I been somehow at fault with this?”

“How am I going to cope with this and what am I going to say to my parent about this?”

Dementia is, at the moment, an incurable condition. This makes matters worse for when you’re trying to think of something appropriate to say to your parent. But don’t worry—for we have some ideas.

Prepare Yourself


Anticipation makes the best warriors. When in a battlefield, it is not the countering of the bullet or the shell but it anticipation that helps soldiers fight well. So let it be with you. Take some time before you can say anything to your parent. Don’t blurt out but think, ponder, reflect upon the prospect. Also ensure that they themselves are ready to have a conversation initiated with you on the matter. Read their body language: do they have their arms crossed across their chest? Are they looking down or averting their gaze from you?

Tone it Down

Your words on their own will not have much impact if they are not delivered in just the right tone: a helpful tone, not a pitiful or a pathetic one, mind you. Let them know, through the modulation of your tone and voice, that you’re here for them and that you’ll stand by them regardless of what comes their way. Don’t try to downplay the severity of their condition, don’t try to dismiss the diagnosis, and don’t let your sadness show through. Take pauses where needed, and avoid talking about their condition to others while they themselves are present in the room.

What NOT to Say

Most importantly, here’s a checklist on what you should NEVER say or do to a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia:

  • “You’re making me repeat myself, I already told you that”
  • Longer sentences, with a ton of ideas stuffed in between. Remember (because at least youcan) that it will be very difficult for your loved one to keep track
  • Absolutely refrain from treating your parent like a child. You still are, and will always be, their child.
  • Don’t ask them what they did a couple of hours ago—stick to the present.
  • Please refrain from trying to make them remember things because (a) you’re not a professional and (b) you’ll only confuse your loved one.

Connect with AvantGarde Today

If you’re looking for a credible senior living community in California with staff that has been trained for dementia patients, get in touch with us today.