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  • Writer's pictureSummercrest Senior Living

Dad’s Got Dementia. Now What?

There is a circle of life. As an infant, a child, and a young adult, your dad looked to his parents for knowledge and protection.

As an adult he took this knowledge and applied it to his quest to be responsible and accountable for his own actions, knowing that there are consequences to poor decisions.

As Time Goes By

As an older adult, dad has lived a good long life. He has seen a lot and learned a lot. No one knows him better than the knows himself. He has conquered this thing called life.

Then dad develops dementia and he starts to make poor decisions that put him at risk.

This is when life comes full circle. Dad now needs someone to look out for and protect him. But dad doesn’t get it. His perception of himself is very different than your perception. And, no matter who you are, perception is reality.

Time to Talk

Now you need to have a difficult conversation with dad. Below you will find a list of suggested points and techniques to successfully begin and work through a complicated conversation with your dad or other loved one.

  • Be honest. First and foremost, remember that this is your dad. He deserves honesty and will recognize if you are being manipulative.

  • Prepare. In advance, write a plan which also states your goal or purpose.

  • Practice. Rehearse your anticipated conversation and all possible outcomes

  • Check your attitude. Be sure you are sure you are in the right frame of mind to have this conversation.

  • Ensure that you have enough time to have this conversation without interruption. If you are in a hurry it will show.

  • Expect objection. Dad is not going to readily concur without question.

  • Avoid being critical or condescending.

  • Identify hot buttons before you start the conversation. Avoid these during the conversation.

  • Have solutions rather than just presenting the problem.

  • Identify personal history that may work for or against your mission.

  • Ask questions; don’t give orders.

  • Pay attention to body language. Body language can give an accurate assessment of how things are going when it is unclear from words.

  • Acknowledge fears. Remember that it is hard to hear that you are no longer the capable person you once were.

  • Listen.

  • Emphasize that you are in this together.

  • Validate feelings. This is a scary time. Remember a time when you were scared and keep this in the forefront of your mind.

  • Recognize and compliment the things he is doing well for himself. Give confirmation.

  • Do your best to not take negative comments personally.

  • Quit the conversation if necessary. Sometimes it is necessary to plant the seed, leave it and return later to water it.

  • Write agreements on paper and have all present parties’ sign. This will hold all parties accountable.

  • Plan something fun, enjoyable or relaxing afterward. Leave the conversation on a positive note.

Every family and situation is unique. Use the list above as a guideline and remember that this is a delicate process. Your parent is likely unsure of what is next. When handled gently and with knowledge, difficult conversations can be a positive experience.

This post was written by Leigh Stocker, Director of Marketing for Summercrest Senior Living in Newport, New Hampshire.

You can reach Leigh at 603-863-8181 or


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