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Approaching difficult conversation about dementia

It is important to express your concerns and support the person to get an assessment and treatment.

Man talking with adult children

Talking with someone you think may experiencing changes which might be dementia is never easy. The following five steps (summarised from our more in-depth website guide: How to talk to someone about getting an assessment) can help you think through and plan your approach to this difficult conversation with someone you care about.

Step 1: Consider – should I be concerned? 

Everyone forgets things, but if you know someone is experiencing changes in ability, behaviour, personality, thinking or memory it might be dementia.

Step 2: Anticipate potential reactions

Before you start aconversation, use your knowledge of the person to think through their potential reactions. How has this person reacted in the past to general conversations about their health or well-being? Their future? Or other sensitive topics like death or dying? Are they open to chatting about issues like this? Or do they get defensive or upset?

Consider if the person has expressed concerns about themselves. For example, have they mentioned:

Consider what may stop the person from going to the GP? (e.g., do they have a long-term/good relationship with a GP?)

Step 3: Prepare for difficult conversation(s) and set the scene

Think about:

Step 4: Be positive and supportive

Step 5. Be prepared to keep trying

For some people, dementia affects insight – their awareness and ability to recognise their own difficulties. For more information read the page: How to talk with someone about getting an assessment and the section at the end titled “If the person does not want to talk about their difficulties.”

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