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Alzheimer's Conversation Tips

Most days Mom just sat in her armchair in front of the TV with a glazed look in her eyes. I tried to perk her up by talking about what was on the news or what I was cooking for dinner, but she didn’t seem interested. With her Alzheimer’s, I’m not even sure she understood what I was saying.

One day, a commercial came on for engagement rings, and I casually asked her, “Mom, do you remember when Dad proposed to you?” Suddenly her eyes lit up, as if I had unlocked a long-forgotten memory that brought her great joy. She proceeded to tell me the proposal story in great detail, which was more than I had heard her talk in weeks. I discovered Mom retained many vivid recollections of her past, and she seemed delighted to tell me her stories. All I had to do was ask a good question.

Asking questions can spark a meaningful conversation full of special memories. Someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias will particularly appreciate the opportunity to pass on personal history and wisdom before it’s too late.

When you begin a conversation, prompt the person with dementia to elaborate by asking open-ended questions and then listen patiently. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • What chores did you have to do when you were growing up?
  • When you were a teenager, what did you and your friends do for fun?
  • What are some of the most valuable things you learned from your parents?
  • What did your grandparents and great grandparents do for a living?
  • When you were growing up, what did you dream you would do with your life?
  • What accomplishments in your life are you most proud of?
  • What are some of the things you are most grateful for?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life?
  • How would you like to be remembered?

You can use these questions as conversation starters at mealtimes, while completing daily activities together, or at a family gathering. Work up to the deeper questions like “How would you like to be remembered?” and follow up with related questions to keep the conversation going. If your family member with dementia gets confused, frustrated or upset by your questions, change the subject. You can always rephrase the question and try asking it again at another time.

By asking good questions, you’re inviting your family member with dementia to share important life experiences that you can continue to remember and cherish even when that person no longer can. You’ll not only enrich your loved one’s life during the moments those memories are shared, but you’ll be able to preserve the memories until it’s time to pass them along to the next generation.

You can find additional memory-evoking question ideas at and great conversation starters for mealtimes at

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. December 22, 2015 at 04:11 pm
    Posted by kelle

    Just looking for more resources and information. My husband had early onset Alzheimer's.
  2. November 27, 2015 at 06:38 am
    Posted by 魔兽世界美服代练

  3. November 1, 2015 at 05:08 pm
    Posted by Dawn

    Small chores such as folding clothes on laundry day are excellent time consuming activities. Dusting with a feather duster. This way no breakage from moving things. Sweeping, floor patio, sidewalk. Puzzles, solitaire, coloring,
  4. September 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm
    Posted by Amy

    I am a care giver for a 88 year old woman with later stage dementia. I am trying to have conversations with her to get her to like me for lack of a better way to put it. She won't eat for me and I really don't want to have to find another case. I'm new at this and I'd like to take this as a learning opportunity. Every time I try to ask her questions or try to engage with her in any kind of way all she says is go away I'm tryng to sleep. I don't want to just give up can anyone give me some tips on how to start a conversation?
  5. July 18, 2015 at 05:02 am
    Posted by Lynne

    My father is 72 and diagnosed with dementia for 6 yrs now. He has had a significant change in the last year espeically since last 6 months. He cant drive now which is an argument. He wants to assist with weedeating, mowing etc and cant function with the equipment. If we do get him started he cant stop. He got pruners out to trim shrubs and we had to cut bushes back to knee high. He argues that we need to let him help and we do.. to a certain point. He wants to mix chemicals to spray but we cant let him. Physically he can do all, what task do we incorporate for him.

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In this video, CAREGiver Sara Maquiss shares how tools like Home Instead Senior Care's Life Journal can be used to capture memories and help her keep the past alive for a person with Alzheimer's.

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