Facebook Pixel

My Friends Mom has Dementia and He's wondering How to talk to her?

By Expert HERWriter August 24, 2014 - 10:58am
Rate This

She goes in and out with her dementia. Some days she's great and some days she doesn't know where she is. He's wondering if he should remind her where she is or just not address it? He doesn't want to make her feel bad, but at the same time wants to tell her where she is if it will help her and not confuse her even more.

Add a Comment1 Comments

HERWriter Guide

Hi Michelle

Thanks for your post! 

Early stages of dementia are particularly hard for the person, I think. Once it has advanced I think it's very hard on the family.

But the early stages can be very frightening for the person themselves - not understanding what brought them into a room (on a more consistent basis), forgetting food in the oven or on the stove, forgetting medication or taking the wrong turn when driving. And accepting their diagnosis is tough too. 

They are also particularly sensitive to this as they know their short-term memories are declining. I assume (and hope) she has spoken to her doctors about this. Some family members hide some information from their elders and I think that's a mistake - they have a right to know so they can make financial and care decisions while the can. 

If you son can go to each and every doctor's visit, that would be great. 

So I can see why your friend is hesitant to remind his mother of things. He may insult her one day and actually be helpful the next but sometimes it's a risk he has to take. No approach will be perfect. 

I think it's ok to give gentle reminders. If he insults her, she'll tell him quick enough! But reminders need to be worked into conversation, rather than giving instructions. 

Instead of "Mom, you keep leaving the stove on!" try something like "Mom, did you hear on the news about the housefire because someone left the stove on. Wow, I reminded the kids about house safety today, it's amazing how easy it is to forget these things."  Maybe Mom will get it, maybe she won't but at least the point is made without insult.

I think it's also ok to ask Mom if she could do with reminders like sticky notes about medications, locking doors and safety issues around the house. Many people (me, for example!) without any kind of dementia leave notes about not forgetting school lunches, keys, phones and the like. See if Mom would like the same. 

No problem at all with reminding Mom where she is! If she's in her kitchen and confused, bring up all the happy times in the kitchen, drinking tea and coffee and preparing meals etc. Point out the drawing on the wall he did when he was 5 and got in trouble for!  Work everything into a regular conversation. If she's out in the neighborhood and forgetting what street she's on, he can tell her of his fond memories of playing football there, or the spot where the ice-cream truck used to stop. Going on walks is great exercise for someone on this position, both mentally and physically. 

There are so many ways to remind people of who they are and where they are by subtly bringing these things up in regular chat. And the more he does it, the easier it becomes. It then doesn't seem patronizing or demeaning. 

So much of early dementia is tricky. So much dignity is at stake. We do run the risk of Mom feeling belittled but I think when handled well and with subtlety, she can be made to feel same, and somewhat normal again.  

He can talk to Mom about current events. I used to work in an Alzheimer and Demetia (they are not one and the same!) unit and used to conduct current events and people love it. I did too! It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in the world. And always listen when she talks about the past, as she will soon begin to do, far more than talking about the present. 

Your friend needs to remember that Mom can sink into depression or abuse alcohol in order to cope, even if they have never been a drinker. Temperament can change - dementia is a frightening road to begin to take. He needs to look out for any changes. 

He can hire a sitter for her, if necessary - a "housekeeper" if that makes her feel better. He will know his mom well enough to use his words carefully. Have other family and friends drop in on her consistently. 

We have a great Memory Loss section here on EmpowHER that covers all sorts of topics and through this he can also visit our Dementia page. He can start here: 


I also highly encourage him to get support for himself. These websites can help:




We wish your friend and his Mom the best. 



August 25, 2014 - 5:53am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.



Get Email Updates

Dementia Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!