Worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia. It’s a condition that can bring long-term health effects. For those living with dementia and those that care for them, there are stigmas and misperceptions associated with the condition.

The words used when speaking about and to people with dementia is a start. Positive, person-first words and phrases help effect change in our communities. Here’s what we mean.

  • Instead of referring to someone as “demented”, “afflicted” or a “victim”, try leading with the individual first and say “person with dementia”
  • Instead of referring to someone as a “patient”, refer to them as a “person in care”
  • Instead of saying that the person is “being difficult” refer to those challenges as “changes in behavior”
  • In the course of caregiving, we may be unintentionally patronizing by saying we are “feeding” or “dressing” a person with dementia. Instead, simply refer to your work as “caring” or “providing assistance”
  • Instead of leading with the condition, lead with the person: a senior living with dementia or people with dementia

Always seeing the senior as a person and not a disease is crucial. That’ll help you focus on their unique situation, instead of someone with limitations. The term person-first language simply means to put the individual in front of their condition. This extends to how we talk about the care required for those living with dementia as their bodies and minds change.

You will also benefit from learning more about the condition. Understanding how it affects your loved one will help you grasp the changes in behavior that are not intentional. For instance, Alzheimer’s creates a range of symptoms beyond memory loss that you may not be familiar with. Those can include paranoia, confusion, and even agitation. These are caused by the physical damage the disease does to the brain and can worsen over time. Those living with the condition also experience a change in how their minds process abstract thoughts. This means that concepts that were once easier to grasp have become difficult to understand without a visual representation or example.

It’s important to be mindful of how a person with dementia might feel about the language you use. One word at a time is the key to overcoming stigmas.


Reformed Church Home offers a home-like environment. Whether or not you choose to live in our community, we hope you’ll continue to weigh your options and make an informed decision. If you’d like to learn more, call, visit, or explore our website to learn more about the quality of life at our senior living community in Old Bridge, NJ!