How to Talk to A Parent With Dementia

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 26 February 12, 2020, On this caregiver radio program Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert shares Love Your Parents: How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia. Guest Stephen G. Post author and founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love answers the question “Is Grandma Still There?” Do loved ones with dementia still know us?

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How to Talk to Parents with Dementia Radio Show Transcript


00:04 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that he doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host, Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.


00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program coming to you live from the BBM Global Network channel 100 and TuneIn radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves, loved ones, and everything in-between. Our topic for this evening is how to talk to a parent with dementia. We’ll tie this subject together with humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver. Take The Caring Generation with you wherever you go on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Spreaker, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Castbox, and more. Share the program with your elderly parents, brothers, sisters, and family members. You can download a podcast app to their cell phones and show them how to listen. It’s the perfect way to help begin conversations about caregiving by letting me do the talking for you.

01:48 Pamela D. Wilson: How to talk to a parent with dementia is a subject that many caregivers ask. 50% of older adults over age 85 experience some type of memory loss. Many are undiagnosed, which is shocking. Memory loss arises from other conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes, and brain injuries. The challenge for the caregiver is to accept that a parent’s brain has changed and no longer works like it used to. And to learn to love your parents the way that they are now because they can’t return to the person that they were. Accepting this change is the first stage in learning how to talk to a parent with dementia. How to work together on tasks your parent may not want to do, and how to understand and respond to behaviors that caregivers can find frustrating and challenging.

02:44 Pamela D. Wilson: Our guest for this show is Stephen Post, an expert on positive psychology and compassionate care for persons diagnosed with dementia. Persons he calls, the deeply forgetful. He is the founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love at and is an author. His most recent book is God and Love on Route 80. He will answer the question, is grandma still there? Do loved ones with dementia know us as the disease progresses?

03:19 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s begin by talking about early signs of dementia to support our conversation of how to talk to a parent with dementia and to learn to love your parents the way they are. Early signs of dementia include difficulty planning or problem-solving. An elderly parent may start to forget events, like going to a doctor appointment. All of a sudden, a problem they regularly solve, like using the TV remote or paying bills becomes a challenge. You may notice changes in mood or personality when talking to a parent with dementia. Confusion over day, date, time happen. As you are learning to love your parents the new way they are, you’ll come to realize that some things that might have been a big deal are really not topics for a debate or an argument. Mom may have been able to make spaghetti and now, she struggles with the recipe. Familiar objects: a purse, eyeglasses, a watch, now, they’re lost all the time. Your parent may not go out as much because others have difficulty talking to a parent with dementia.

04:25 Pamela D. Wilson: It’s up to you to love your parents. Acquaintances and friends who don’t understand the disease may not have the patience to be empathetic or compassionate, which is unfortunate. It takes a special person to learn how to talk to a parent with dementia. You may begin to notice poor judgment combined with forgetfulness. A parent buys ten sets of sheets and stockpiles them. There are five boxes of the same cereal in the kitchen cabinet. Solicitations from charity start showing up in the mail because your parent writes ten checks a day to charities. These are all subjects to approach when it’s time to learn how to talk to a parent with dementia. In my experience, a spouse or adult children have difficulty talking to parents about dementia for fear of hurting their feelings, or, more commonly, for fear of not knowing what to say.

When You Become the Caregiver Instead of A Husband, Wife, Son or Daughter

05:14 Pamela D. Wilson: You love your parents. I’ll help you figure out how to talk to a parent with dementia. Let’s start. You suspect your parent has memory loss. There hasn’t been a diagnosis. You want to make a doctor appointment to check it out to receive a diagnosis. Where do you start? You start with the fact that you love your parents. The conversation goes something like this. “Mom or Dad, you know I love you. I’m noticing a few things and wonder if you notice them, too. You were always so organized. And now, mail is stacking up on the kitchen table, or your refrigerator is filled with spoiled food, you were always so careful about cleaning out the fridge.” You can give other examples that you notice. Then you say, “I’m worried that a bill might go unpaid. That you might get food poisoning. That you might have a car accident. Would it be okay if I make a doctor appointment to see if there’s something going on with your health that might be causing these changes? You seem to be a little more forgetful and distracted than usual.” It’s important to acknowledge that this conversation may not go like you plan the first time. While you love your parents, learning how to talk to a parent with dementia, it is a learned skill that does get better over time.

06:27 Pamela D. Wilson: You may have to bring up a concern every time you talk to a parent with dementia until they’re comfortable going to see a doctor. I’ve had to do this with so many of my clients for whom I was Power of Attorney. I approached the conversation like a conversation, not like a meeting, or not like trying to tell the person that something was wrong with them. That always goes bad. The conversations were more like, “Are you noticing this behavior? It seems new. It’s probably something that we should have checked out just to make sure that we’re being proactive and that nothing is seriously wrong with your health.” This is how to talk to a parent with dementia, with love for your parent. If you have brothers or sisters, invite them to have similar conversations with the thought of love for your parent. Don’t be condescending; do not talk to your parent like they are a child. Remember, you still are their child. Don’t have a scolding attitude or a condescending attitude.

07:28 Pamela D. Wilson: When the family works together out of concern for a parent with dementia, getting a diagnosis helps you know what you have to work with. You then learn how to talk to a parent with dementia about making a plan for care. Once you can get past all of the initial discussions and the diagnosis, the next step is to ask with love for your parent what their preferences are as the disease progresses. If unfamiliarity with the stages of caregiving or the stages of Alzheimer’s exist, my advice is to learn as much as possible as early as possible before the disease progresses. This might be a scary process for you or your parent with dementia. I can say, though, that it will avoid uncertainty about wishes and desires for care, especially avoid family disagreements about what mom or dad may have wanted when it gets to the point where they can no longer speak to you about that. When you learn how to talk to a parent with dementia in the early stages, all of the unexpected situations that arise go more smoothly. We will continue this conversation about love for your parent and how to talk to a parent with dementia in the second half of the hour.

08:36 Pamela D. Wilson: Up next, Stephen Post, an expert in positive psychology and compassion for persons with memory loss. Share The Caring Generation with friends and family. This and all of the past programs are downloadable as podcasts from my website, where you could also read the transcripts at This is Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation live on the BBM Global Network, channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.


11:20 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host, you’re listening to The Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. We’re back with Stephen Post, author and the founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love to answer the question, is grandma still there? Do loved ones with dementia still know us as the disease progresses? Stephen, welcome.

11:45 Stephen Post: Thank you, Pamela. I’m happy to be with you.

11:47 Pamela D. Wilson: You talk a lot about hope for caregivers of the deeply forgetful, I so love that term, how can caregivers find hope if they’re not religious or spiritual?

12:00 Stephen Post: Well, I use the words “deeply forgetful” because I think dementia is oftentimes used in a derogatory way, so “deeply forgetful” means that we’re all somewhat forgetful on a given day [chuckle]. And some of us are more forgetful than others, and we just need to realize that this is a continuum and we can’t just separate them from us. And so we have hope in the sense, in the affirmation of a shared humanity, the dignity of all people, even if their memory or intellect is somewhat limited. And so, we’ve got to be hopeful, and I don’t mean that in a superficial way. We’ve got to be open to surprises. Because hey, when I’ve been around so many people with deep forgetfulness, they may be sitting there with their head down on their chest. But suddenly, with the right stimulation, they’ll just kind of come back to life and they’ll say something that’s kind of shocking. That they actually realize you’re there. And they might even call you by name. So, you can never think that someone’s gone or absent or a husk, or whatever it might be, a shell. Never give in to those negative despairing metaphors. Because there’s always, underneath that sort of communicative breakdown, there’s a person, and that’s really important.

13:24 Stephen Post: The other thing I’d say is that, look, we fool ourselves to think that we’re so self-reliant. The bottom line is, you come into this world as an infant and a child, and you’re completely dependent. You fall ill. You get frail. You get sick in life. You’re dependent. You get old and typically, most of us are dependent and reliant on somebody somewhere. There’s nothing about that that suggests despair or loss of hope. It’s just the human condition, and we need to own up to it and recognize that we are connected. That we have these responsibilities and relationships, and if we manage them effectively and creatively and with dignity and with grace and with compassion, we ourselves will thrive and flourish in many unexpected ways.

14:14 Pamela D. Wilson: Well, let’s talk about hope for sons or daughters. I have some that will call me and say that they are just not visiting mom or dad because mom or dad doesn’t remember them anymore. How would you respond to those sons or daughters?

14:26 Stephen Post: Well, it doesn’t matter that you don’t think they remember you anymore. That probably means they’re not having an easy time with word finding. They forget names, and you suddenly think that “Oh, my heavens, we’re in a different universe.” Look, the fact that somebody cannot remember your name does not mean that they’re not there. In fact, I would say that if you’re there in the moment, and you take the time to really notice what’s going on emotionally, effectively, if you just take a look carefully, you can see winks. You can hear whispers of them being there. And they may not know you in the most obvious sense. But assume that they do at some deeper level. But the main thing is actually that you remember them. That’s your job as a son or a daughter. You want to remember them. You are the prosthesis. You’re the people who can come in and remind them with a picture book of family photos of the things that were meaningful to them.

15:38 Stephen Post: And lo and behold, they’ll spark up, and they’ll smile. And they may even start talking about some old events. And you’re kind of surprised by that. But that’s the whole thing here is that you’ve got to be open to surprises. And yeah, they’re always still there. You want to call your parent by name. Even if you may not expect an answer. But actually, sporadically and sometimes more than sporadically after a good night’s sleep in the morning, they will respond. They will know who you are and you can engage in some sort of conversation. So, there’s always presence. There’s always a kind of subtle being there with them. Which is very deep and very meaningful. One quick story. I went out to a nursing home in Chardon, Ohio, Heather Hill years ago, and I asked the nurse to show me who Jim was. I’d read his bio-sketch on the wall. And this was a special care unit for people with dementia, and I met him I said, “Hi Jim,” he couldn’t talk with me. I sat down with him.  I asked him how his sons were. He couldn’t communicate. But he had a twig in his hand. It was just a beautiful twig about two feet long, painted white, and he handed it to me and he smiled and if love was electric, that place would have been on fire.

16:58 Stephen Post: And then later on I asked the nurse, “So what’s the story with Jim and the twig?” Well, he grew up on a farm in Ohio, and he loved his father very much and his chore in the morning. His chore in the morning was to bring kindling in for the fireplace. And he’d gone back to that place of security and love, and he was connecting with me in that way. So, there is always a presence.

17:22 Pamela D. Wilson: And we’ve got about a minute left, but that was kind of one of those lucid moments, that appear out of nowhere. Does that happen all the time, is it normal, or are there times when that happens more than others?

17:30 Stephen Post: It’s absolutely normal. It’s especially common after a good night’s sleep. But many, many people, in fact, every caregiver I’ve ever met in my life, has spoken about these remarkable moments when they are reminded that their loved one is still there. That there’s a continuity of identity of self-hood. It may flicker in and out. It may be less vivid at times. But absolutely, it’s there and we have no business thinking that it’s not there.

18:03 Pamela D. Wilson: I have been a caregiver for 20 years, and I’ve experienced those moments with my clients. They are so special when they come out of what I call a fog on some given day and say something that is just so beautiful about their relationship or what they remember about you.  You just cannot give those special moments away. We are going to continue our conversation with Stephen Post after this break coming up. You can find podcast replays and transcripts of this show, and every Caring Generation show on my website at, and on your favorite podcast sites, I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host, you are listening live, on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with us. We’ll be right back.


21:02 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. We’re back with Stephen Post. Stephen, you talk about the power of music and memory. How does music help us remember?

21:24 Stephen Post: Well, I’m really lucky because Dan Cohen, and who started Music and Memory, just lives about 20 minutes from Stony Brook, where I am. But the Music and Memory experience is amazing. If you take someone who hasn’t uttered a coherent word in weeks, even months. And you play music that they identify with from earlier in life. That’s really deeply ingrained and enmeshed in their identity, my goodness, 70% of people will begin to hum and sing a line or maybe even a whole verse. And afterwards they may even be able to converse a little bit, at least briefly. Because that is fleeting. But the amazing thing is that a lot of memory is somatic. It’s like a musician who can remember a piece they haven’t played in 10 years because it’s somehow in their muscles and in their body. So, music gets you rhythmic. It gets you into those deep rhythmic impulses that go way, way back to the beginning of evolution, I think. And you can reconnect. You can reconnect with who you are. It’s really quite amazing. And of course, now there are Alzheimer’s choirs around the country. There are all kinds of venues that are being used, and it’s a beautiful thing. How does it work?

22:45 Stephen Post: Well, technically, it’s the medial prefrontal cortex. Which is just behind the forehead, and it links memory, music, and emotion, and that’s a key thing. And some of the good research right now is going on where they’re using PET scan devices and they’re looking at those areas of the brain that get really active when someone is in one of these moments of recollection.  And they’re even thinking about using deep brain stimulation, which is very fascinating.

23:12 Pamela D. Wilson: Now you have me smiling because I, myself. I’ll be driving in my car, and I hear a song, and don’t even ask me how I remember the words. But I start to sing to it. So, that’s the example that you’re giving. So, a lot of spouses and adult children, they try to maintain these connections with the person who’s deeply forgetful. And in your book, you mentioned like 12 aspects. Can you talk about a few of those, of how to remain connected?

23:37 Stephen Post: Oh, absolutely. Well, first of all, have a good picture book. Just some big images on maybe 15 or 20 pages that your mother or father would remember. It could be a picture of Frank Sinatra, or Marilyn Monroe, or whatever. It could be Jimi Hendrix; I have no idea. But things that they will recognize and identify with. And you will find that it can prompt them into conversation and into a whole new level of engagement. That’s really important. Art is incredible. Look, the creative nature of the human being is not in any way compromised by deep forgetfulness. I was sitting with a guy once who would come into this art program for people with dementia, and he would just sketch with a pencil on a paper. And you never knew what it was. But he always had the same line running down the middle, and I would ask him, “Jack, what’s that line?” He couldn’t respond. But one day I was sitting there, and I said, “Jack, what’s that line?” And he said, “This is a map, so my daughter can find me at home.”

24:47 Pamela D. Wilson: Aww, how sweet.

24:50 Stephen Post: So, the creativity is there. The art. There are so many ways that symbolic rationality is always there. And by the way. Get a dog, because I have known so many people who have found hope in an Alzheimer’s dog. They have these all over Australia, all over Europe. We don’t have enough of them in the United States. But they’re trained Alzheimer’s dogs. Almost everybody has them in Australia, and they provide companionship and loyalty, and frankly, the dog doesn’t give a darn if you’re a little forgetful.

25:23 Pamela D. Wilson: Right, right. Well, so what if somebody says to you, “Stephen, my dad never had any hobbies. My mom never had any hobbies. I don’t know if this music thing is going to work.” How do they find things that would interest a parent if they’re struggling with that?

25:39 Stephen Post: Well, it can be difficult sometimes. But if you have any sense of what your parent was interested in, you just want to start building on that, and they can also be engaged in novel ways. So, for example, one of the big movements in Alzheimer’s care right now is the intergenerational school. They’re now in many parts of the country. And this is when the old folks with dementia will come into these charter schools. Where you’ve got first graders and second graders and third graders, and they’ll interact. And suddenly they actually come back into themselves. They’ll be more lucid. They’ll be more verbal. They’ll start teaching these kids. So, the very fact that they had you as a child and took care of you some years ago. That’s an interest. That’s an interest that’s a universal interest. And as my friend Peter Whitehouse in Cleveland, who has started the actual first intergenerational school, has shown, this is amazingly good for these older adults, emotionally and in every other way. They even have degrees of memory of… improvement.  And it’s also great because the kids love it.

26:48 Pamela D. Wilson: I see that when I go to the malls. The older people who are sitting around will see children, and they just light up. Talk about your work with the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.

27:00 Stephen Post: Well, the Institute is not about just regular old love, which can be very limited and conditional and so forth. It’s really about the kind of love that we need to provide people who are dependent and who rely on us. I won’t go into it in any depth. But we funded all kinds of studies around the country and around the world on this very profound. Some people would call it compassionate love, and it’s really been nice. Sir John Templeton was my old mentor and we started this together years ago. But you know I will say this. That in many cases, people with Alzheimers disease, toward the end of their course, we’ll have moments of terminal lucidity which are really powerful. In fact, that’s very commonly reported. And Rudy Tansy, your audience can Google. Rudy Tansy, who’s a neurologist at Harvard, speaks about this and it’s profound. So, I was going to just mention a couple of amazing cases that I include in my writings which are just really phenomenal. This came from a woman…

28:15 Pamela D. Wilson: And we’ve got about a minute, so if you can list them pretty, we’ve got 30 seconds, I’m sorry, you know what you can do —  if you want to send me an email, I can post them in this podcast post for people.

28:27 Stephen Post: Great, okay…

28:28 Pamela D. Wilson: That’ll be awesome, Stephen.

28:30 Stephen Post: Good.

28:32 Pamela D. Wilson: Perfect. So , thank you for joining us. Listeners, more about Stephen Post and the Institute for Research on unlimited love plus his book God and love on Route 80 is at, I am Pamela D Wilson, your host, you’re listening to the caring generation live on the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.


31:12 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host, you’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults coming to you live from the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn radio. We’re back to talk about how to love and talk to parents with dementia when memory loss advances and when changes in everyday activity become challenging. Some days they’re worse. Some days they’re better. In another caring generation show called the Signs of Dementia Checklist, I interviewed Dr. Jonathan Graff Radford, he’s a neurologist from the Mayo Clinic, about the importance of diagnosing memory loss. Creating estate plans is also part of how to talk to parents with dementia and you want to do that early. Talk about medical and financial power of attorney, a living will and a will or a trust while your parent can be very clear in their thinking about their medical care wishes. Some elderly parents will avoid, not wanting to do this. The unfortunate part is, these documents can’t be created later when your parent doesn’t have the mental ability or what they call the mental capacity to execute those documents.

32:24 Pamela D. Wilson: I’ll put a link in this podcast, there is an article on my website, and it’s called When to Get Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents. So important to do before memory loss progresses, if you need support for how to talk to parents with dementia about these subjects, there is a lot of helpful information out there. So, as the memory loss of your elderly parent advances, you’ll begin to notice other behaviors. Your elderly parent might seem to be a little more stubborn.

32:52 Pamela D. Wilson: Some adult children tell me that they think their parent is purposely doing things to drive them crazy, and that is so not the case. Parents with dementia might be trying to hold on to that last bit of independence or the last bit of control that they have. Helping a parent with dementia retain their independence is actually a way of showing more love for your parent. Because it might be quicker and easier for you to do these tasks. But by taking away those tasks, you make your elderly parent less able to be self-sufficient. You unintentionally increase your workload as a caregiver. Your workload is going to increase. You want to manage it early so that your parent can still do as many things for themselves as possible. So, the idea of supporting ideas and how to talk to parents with dementia are not treating them like they can’t do things, it’s the idea of allowing them to do everything that they still can do safely. Show love for your parent by being more patient when they move more slowly, think slowly and forget words or information. While we, as caregivers, may be crazed, time depraved and rushed, we work full-time, we juggle work and caregiving, our parents with dementia, they’re retired, they have all the time in the world.

34:05 Pamela D. Wilson: Another tip for how to talk to parents with dementia is to ask yourself, what does it matter? What does it matter if your elderly parent can’t remember the name of his doctor? It’s not a big deal. Love for your parent with dementia isn’t about being right. When you learn how to talk to parents with dementia, you’ll learn how to give alternatives and options. Giving options is an important way to show love for a parent who’s probably having difficulty making choices and making decisions. Elderly parents with dementia become distracted. How many times do you find yourself doing one thing? You think of something else. You shift over, and then when you’re finished, you’re thinking, “What was I doing before this?” Join the crowd. I do it myself. It’s that danger of multitasking and being way too busy. The difference is, for an elderly parent with dementia, they probably can’t remember what they were doing before.

34:55 Pamela D. Wilson: So, before I changed the subject, do you see how I just distracted you? We were talking about options on how to talk to parents with dementia who become distracted. One tip is, instead of asking a yes or no question, give a choice. For example, it may be time to get dressed. Show a verbal cue. “Mom, what would you like to wear? This blue blouse or this pink blouse?” Giving a choice and showing an object, like a blouse, visually reduces the stress that your elderly parent with dementia feels when they’re having to make a choice based on trying to remember what that blue or pink blouse look like. By doing this again, you’re showing love for your parent and you’re reducing the mental stress that mom or dad feels. You’re asking for their opinion. Asking for their participation. It’s a win-win situation for everybody. Does it take you more time? Absolutely. But remember, this is about compassion and kindness for a parent with dementia. Not about us as caregivers feeling rushed or impatient.

35:55 Pamela D. Wilson: We are learning how to talk to parents with dementia. On this subject, if at all possible, don’t be the only caregiver. If you have brothers and sisters, get them involved early. Don’t let them say no. Gain their participation so that they, too can learn to talk to parents with dementia. Create schedules for caring for elderly parents. Create a list of tasks. Have family meetings. Divide up the tasks for the week or the month. Ask for help. Share the love for your parent. When possible, caregiving for a parent with dementia, it should be a family activity. You might have heard the term “it takes a village.” Caring for a person with dementia takes a village. Because as time progresses and the care needs of an elderly parent with dementia increase, it takes more people and more time to accomplish all of the daily care needs. When you get to this point when elderly parents with dementia begin saying no or refusing to participate in their care, it takes even more time and more love for your parent to stay involved and to remain positive.

37:02 Pamela D. Wilson: That first time your elderly parent refuses to take medication. Refuses to get out of bed. Refuses to take a bath, or hits you because you’re trying to make mom or dad do something, you might feel shocked. You will probably feel a little frustrated and think that your parent is being difficult, ungrateful, maybe even spiteful. It’s normal. Behaviors happen for so many reasons. Responding positively to behaviors is the next stage of learning how to talk to parents with dementia. This is when all of those skills you learned so far, all the conversations you’ve had about how to talk to parents with dementia, all of the love you’ve shown for your parent, rises to the next level. This is also the time when, if you have not, it’s time to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. That you’ve learned all that you can about the disease process, and that you are participating in a support group, in person or online. It doesn’t matter. Talking to other caregivers and similar situations who understand can be freeing. You can say whatever you think or feel, and those caregivers, they understand. They won’t judge you. Sometimes other family members will do that, but caregivers who know will not do that.

38:15 Pamela D. Wilson: You can follow, download and listen to podcasts on this show… Of this show and all of the past Caring Generation radio shows on my website, it’s This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.


40:55 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, this is The Caring Generation coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. You can follow me on social media on Facebook. Watch my videos. Follow me and share posts. My page is On Twitter, I am @caregivingspeak. On Instagram, I am @wilsonpamelad, and on LinkedIn, I am PamelaDWilsoncaregiverexpert.

We’re back for more on how to talk to parents with dementia and show love for your parents who have changed. Let’s talk about five tips for having positive conversations that can help avoid the behaviors we’ve talked about before the break. The first conversation tip for how to talk to parents with dementia is to realize that using logic may no longer work. Our brains, they think logically. The part of our parents’ brain that used to think logically, today is like what I call a road with a big sinkhole or a crack right in the middle of the road. We can’t drive anymore from one end of that road to the other We have to take a detour and find different ways to get there.

42:03 Pamela D. Wilson: So, any desire to go into a lengthy discussion. A lot of details. A lot of information of the why an elderly parent should take medications, or take a bath, or do something that they don’t want to do is like a road with a sinkhole. It’s a dead end. By the time you get to the end of your first sentence. Your elderly parent can’t remember the first word of that sentence that you said. And what happens is, they become more confused and more agitated with you. What you want to do is stop. Walk away. Come back in five minutes, and try again to do what you were trying to do, and maybe give a parent his or her medications. If you get another no and that pill can be crushed — you do want to ask your pharmacist about this — crush the pill and put it in some strawberry jam that’s lumpy or applesauce or in a spoon of yogurt. By doing this, you learn how to talk to parents with dementia about taking medications. You also show love for your parents by taking that detour to accomplish a task.

43:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Let me take a detour and talk about another Caring Generation podcast. It’s called Managing Medications in the Elderly. That show is extremely helpful to answer questions about medications. The effect of medications. Side effects on the elderly for depression, anxiety, behaviors, and memory loss, and there’s also information in there about compounding pharmacies, and alternatives to have elderly parents take medications when they might be saying no. You can find it on my website, Click on the media tab. Scroll down to The Caring Generation radio show, and you can find the radio show, the podcast, and the transcript there. The number two conversation tip for how to talk to parents with dementia, speak in very short sentences. For example, “Let’s take a walk. Let’s do this.” And at the same time, you initiate the movement. So if it’s a walk, you start to walk. Long sentences are dead ends. Your parents can’t remember, again, the beginning of that sentence, by the time you get to the end. Verbal cues and physical movement can help.

44:15 Pamela D. Wilson: The number three conversation tip for how to talk to parents with dementia, be aware of your body language. Look at your non-verbal actions. Elderly parents with memory loss have what I call horse sense. They can tell if you are upset by the frown on your face. By the crossing of your arms, or other facial or body expressions that show that you’re frustrated or angry. Guess what happens? Your parent becomes upset because they’re mirroring what they think you’re feeling. So instead, smile. Put your arm around them. Give them a hug. Say, “I love you.” Show love for your parents instead of frustration. The number four conversation tip for how to talk to parents with dementia and this tip extends beyond conversation and continues on the prior idea of body language. Be prepared for the unexpected. As we talked about with Stephen Post, at home and when you were out in public. So, an example, let’s say that you take your parent with dementia to a doctor’s office. The wait is long. They’re starting to get impatient. They’re fidgeting. They start yelling or talking out loud. What do you do?

45:21 Pamela D. Wilson: What you don’t do is show frustration. You take a minute. Go to the front desk. Let them know that you’re going to take mom or dad out for a five-minute walk to distract them and that you’ll be right back. Thinking on your feet to respond to unexpected caregiving situations is part of caring for elderly parents with dementia. The number five conversation tip for how to talk to parents with dementia is redirect and reminisce. For example, mom or dad is pacing the floor, saying they need to go home. They are emotionally agitated. They’re crying. What do you do? You walk up to them. You hold their hand or put your arm around them, and you say, “I hear you want to go home, mom. How about I take you home right after we eat dinner, we wash a load of clothes, we get your clothes changed?” Name any type of activity that will distract them and redirect that conversation. And then when you’re doing that activity, then you can come back and ask questions, like, mom, what was your favorite thing about home, or your mom or dad?

46:24 Pamela D. Wilson: The goal is you want to redirect it to something that they remember being positive. Like Stephen Post and I talked about music or pictures. You show love for your parents. And now, you’ve got five more ways about how to talk to parents with dementia and do it very positively. Share these tips with your family members. The other consideration in showing love for parents with dementia is to never take their statements or their actions personally. It can be difficult when you feel like you’re giving up everything to care for an elderly parent. But they just sometimes don’t realize what their actions are, because of that disconnect in their brain. There’s no way around it. Caring for an elderly parent, or a loved one with dementia eventually does become one-sided. With you providing all of that care. Eventually, the ability to walk, dress, feed themselves and have conversations, it decreases. Caring for a loved doing with dementia becomes the closest thing to caring for a child or a baby who is helpless. You show unconditional love for your parents in this stage of caregiving, and this stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

47:33 Pamela D. Wilson: We are going to be heading out to a break. Next week, the subject is, Helping Elderly Parents With Activities of Daily Living and being as independent as possible. Part of that is managing health concerns. Nearly 50% of older adults are malnutritioned. Malnutrition leads to a condition you may have heard of called failure to thrive. My special guest is going to be Dr. Nicolaas Deutz, the Director for Translational Research from Texas, A&M. He will talk about aging, nutrition, and longevity. Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to listen to The Caring Generation radio show, add an app to their cell phone to listen to the podcast. All the information is on my website of all of the past shows at, check it out. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host. You are listening to The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Invite everybody to join us every week. We’re heading out to a break, we’ll be right back.


51:50 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host, this is The Caring Generation radio program, for caregivers and aging adults live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Helpful information is on my website at

Let’s put the finishing touches of how to talk to parents with dementia and show love for your parents who will need more and more help and more and more care as time passes. Let’s talk about why behaviors happen. There are many reasons. But mainly it’s the fact that your elderly parent with dementia can’t tell you what they’re feeling or thinking. So, like a child, they act out. They may not be feeling well. But they can’t explain it to you. You might be rushing mom or dad to complete an activity. Their brain can’t keep up, or can’t process what you’re asking them to do. So, they may become frustrated. They may hit you. Kick you. Dig their fingernails into your arm, or pull on your hair. I’ve had all of those things happen to me. When parents become physically agitated, you quickly learn better ways to talk to your parents. Behaviors happen because of not feeling well. Again, the way that others talk or act towards your parents with dementia. Or just too much overstimulation. Too much going on. Too much noise. Too many people. Too many things happening at once.

53:09 Pamela D. Wilson: It’s one of those things that you may not notice right away, and I’ll give an example. So, let’s say that your mom always liked to go to the mall to window shop or to walk for exercise, and you’ve been going for years. Now you go three times a week, and mom enjoys that activity. But one day you go to the mall. There’s more people than unusual. It’s busy. It’s noisy.  You’re in one of mom’s favorite stores, and you step toward the escalator. All of a sudden, mom has a meltdown when she sees those stairs going up. She turns. She runs in the other direction. Knocks over a mannequin and a store display, and then she falls. Everybody in the store is looking at you. Sales ladies are coming to the rescue to help your mom get up and you’re apologizing all over the place. You explain that your mom has dementia and that that escalator startled her. What just happened? You experienced a situation where a mom who was previously comfortable walking through a shopping mall and getting close to an escalator is no longer comfortable. In that situation. It happened out of the blue. It was an unexpected caregiving situation that resulted from too much stimulation. Your trips to the mall are over.

54:17 Pamela D. Wilson: It’s time for a detour. Time to find an activity to replace those three times a week trips to the mall for exercise. Tips to avoid stimulation. Create activities in calm settings. So what you want to do is look at maybe taking a walk outdoors in a park. Avoid busy malls. Do one activity at a time. Take a walk. Maybe listen to music. Fold towels, make the bed. Help your elderly parent with dementia feel comfortable doing activities that they can do without becoming upset. As Stephen Post mentioned, go through old photo albums. Sing songs that they remember. Play music, dance, make memories that can last you for a lifetime. So that when your mom or dad is no longer with you, you’re going to have all these beautiful things that you can remember. Learn how to talk to parents with dementia. Show love for your parents. Caring for an elderly parent with memory loss, it is such a great adventure if we make it so. Thank you for being proactive and interested in caregiving, health, and well-being. Share the Caring Generation with your family and workplace, so that we can make caregiving something we talk about.

55:25 Pamela D. Wilson: Podcasts of all the shows are on my website at Thank you so much for joining me on The Caring Generation radio program for Caregivers and Aging Adults. I am Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again next Wednesday evening. Again, we’re going to be talking about nutrition and activities of daily living for our elderly parents, how to help them stay at home. Invite your friends and family to join us. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight, have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a really great week until we are together again next week.


56:01 Announcer: Tune in each week for the Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D. Wilson’s The Caring Generation.


Looking For More Help About Dementia and Alzheimer’s? You’ll Find What You Are Looking For in The Caring Generation® Library in the Section Called Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s.

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About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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