Resources, Tips, tools & skills, Toward better care

30 powerful things you could say to reduce anxiety and anger, and connect with people who live with alzheimer disease

When people who live with alzheimer disease and other dementias (PLWD) feel threatened or afraid, they react just like most other living things with one of three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. These normal responses are often pathologized in PLWD. When they “fight” back, it’s called “being combative,” or “aggressive behviour.” When they try to flee, it may be labeled as “wandering,” or “exit seeking behaviour.” This unfortunate labeling often leads to PLWD being medicated and/or sedated instead of understood.

How can dementia care partners help reduce anxiety and anger, and thus the responses they generate? I talk about five proven strategies here. Likewise, love, support and compassion can help defuse a crisis situation, calm troubled waters, and help create positive outcomes while averting unwanted ones. In fact, understanding and appreciation (when we mean it of course!) can help lay the foundation for better relationships with everyone, whether they live with dementia or not.

Here are 30 specific things (and lots of additional ideas) care partners and care workers might say to help people who live with dementia feel good about themselves and their relationships:

1) I love you
2) I understand that you feel angry/anxious/afraid/unhappy/sad/hurt/trapped/confused/upset/lost
3) You have a right to feel angry/anxious/afraid/unhappy/sad/hurt/trapped/confused/upset/lost
4) This is maddening/hard/scary/upsetting/unfair/difficult/confusing
5) You are right / I agree
6) It’s not your fault
7) I’m sorry
8) You are special to me
9) I see you and I hear you
10) You’re not alone
11) You don’t have to be afraid
12) I’m proud of you
13) I have confidence in you
14) I will hold your hand
15) You are important to me
16) Your life is precious
17) The world is a better place with you in it
18) I see your spirit shining
19) I’m lucky to have you
20) I want to learn from you
21) You are beautiful
22) You are one of the best things in my life
23) I value the time we spend together
24) Your opinion is important, and you count
25) I feel good when we’re together
26) You have taught me many things
27) I’m grateful for all you have done for me
28) I love the way you: live your life / talk / sing / notice small things / smile / laugh / look / tell jokes / cut carrots / butter bread / compliment others / take care of yourself / take care of others / share your time with me / tell stories about your life / take pleasure in small things / want the best in life / keep going / fight for your rights / speak volumes in silence / make your voice heard / assert yourself / are kind to others / have lived your life / take the bull by the horns / don’t give up
29) I enjoy: holding your hand / singing with you / preparing meals with you / listening to music with you / just being with you / walking with you / seeing you smile / hearing your voice / watching the birds with you / picking flowers with you / hearing you tell stories / sharing memories with you / being inspired by you / witnessing your courage / spending time with you / helping you live as you want to / your sense of humour / dancing with you / living with you / appreciating good days with you / helping you / seeing you thrive / the sound of your voice / the touch of your hand / the look in your eye / our relationship
30) I’m glad: we’re spending time together / you are still with me in this world / you are my… (mother/father/brother/sister/husband/wife/daughter/son/friend) / we know each other / you love me / you are in my life / we share joyful moments together / we overcome challenges together / we have each other / we’re connected
30) You are: amazing / beautiful / smart / my hero / helpful / wise / clever / funny / huggable / lovable / my friend / inspiring / courageous / brave / determined / strong / precious to me / capable / loving / patient / feisty / perceptive / insightful / knowing / gentle/ perfect just the way you are

Suggestion: use the words, attributes and experiences that have the most meaning to you and your care partner/client.

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4 thoughts on “30 powerful things you could say to reduce anxiety and anger, and connect with people who live with alzheimer disease”

    1. Hi Fenella, in my opinion, it’s even more important to say all those things if the person is no longer able to speak. Unless they’re deaf, they should still be able to understand and appreciate if not the words then the tone and the emotion behind them.

      You might be interested in these two links: 3 wise thoughts on being with someone you love as they die, which also apply to being with someone with dementia as they live and ghost people.


    2. Music

      I know this to be true, because I lived with 6 old, sick, dying Dementia and end of life Hospice seniors for 10 years


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