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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

LeBlanc: Use the 'we' word when instructing dementia patients

Published:   |   Updated: January 12, 2014 at 01:01 PM

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When those in the medical profession are going through a training period, it is essential that their instruction include ways to properly communicate with the public. This is especially true when dealing with people who have dementia.

Recently I was fortunate to take part in the training of hospital staff, along with The Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. During such talks, an example I often use is this: Do not say, "Mr. Jones, 'you' need to go downstairs to the radiology department for testing." Instead, say, "Mr. Jones, 'we' need to go downstairs."

When instructing first responders about interacting with a person with dementia, we naturally spent some time talking about what to do in a crisis, such as a hurricane or other type of natural disaster. I advised them not to go knocking on Mr. Jones' door and say, "You need to evacuate; there's a storm coming." Instead, the phrasing should include, "We need to go."

This is also true when we are caring for our loved ones at home. Try to stay in the habit of substituting the pronoun "we" for "you" when you see that the need is appropriate. By turning whatever you're trying to achieve into teamwork, you will find that things will go a lot faster and more smoothly.

It also might help with activities such as attempting to get them into a bathroom or getting them ready for a doctor's appointment. Always present the task as if you are going to do them as a team and that you need their help to get this accomplished.

Changing our daily vocabulary might be difficult at first, but with enough practice, it should become second nature.

Another important matter that we're addressing is to reintroduce ourselves every time we enter their hospital room. The memory of your last meeting might have evaporated. Do not let them play a guessing game. By keeping them in the know, we will help keep their confusion down.

Remember this: To those with dementia, questions are the root of all evil. Limit the necessity of their having to determine who is who.

These suggestions might sound somewhat minor, but trust me; they can make a world of difference in keeping these loved ones calm and less confused.

For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at His newly released book, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," and his other books, "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness," can be found at

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