Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online


That first conversation about dementia

January 2019

Elderly couple sitting at table
It can be difficult to talk about dementia

Christmas and New Year is usually a time which brings loved ones together.
It’s common that during this season you may have noticed a change in how your loved one is behaving, particularly if you haven’t seen them for a while. Sometimes it may be nothing to worry about, but on other occasions it may in fact signal the beginnings of a health issue. 

There are currently over 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. One in six people over the age of 80 have dementia, and with an ageing population this is only going to increase.

Having a conversation with a loved one about dementia can be difficult but John Ramsay, Chief Executive Officer of Shift8, a social enterprise organisation that is introducing a Dutch dementia care innovation into the UK, provided Laterlife with some advice:

Do your research

Ahead of chatting with your loved one about dementia, make sure you’ve done thorough research. There’s plenty of advice and guidance online on various websites ranging from the NHS through to Dementia UK. There are online guides and leaflets as well as helplines you can call for extra support too, such as the Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline. Your local community is another great place you can turn to. Community hubs, such as libraries and the Dementia Club UK, offer a safe space for you to discuss any concerns you may have and offer advice on activities you and your loved one can partake in going forward. By increasing your knowledge, you’ll be able to understand what your loved one is experiencing and will be able to hold an honest and open conversation with your friend or relative about dementia. This also means you’ll be able to offer suggestions for next steps which will help you both to remain positive.

The dementia journey

When it comes to dementia, it’s important to realise that it’s a completely individual experience, reflecting the complexity of the condition as well as the dozens of different forms dementia can take. There are different symptoms associated with dementia and these can range in severity. Generally, dementia can be seen as a combination of symptoms including memory problems, cognitive ability and communication, which means that no two cases are the same. As a result, it becomes crucial to reserve judgement and remain flexible in your approach. If your loved one is having trouble processing information and is often struggling to find the right words but doesn’t have memory loss, you can’t jump the gun and assume there are no issues. It’s vital to be empathetic and remain as understanding as possible without making a judgement. 

Pick your words

As our understanding of dementia has increased, so too has the vocabulary surrounding it. It’s common to see words such as ‘suffer’, ‘disorder’ and ‘no cure’ being used in context with dementia. However, such words and phrases are incredibly negative and immediately cultivate bleak prospects for the future. Yet living with dementia needn’t be this way. Even though there is no known cure, it’s possible to live an active and fulfilled life – and this in fact slows down the process, so should be encouraged. Take a few moments to consider the words you plan to use when addressing the topic of dementia with a loved one. Try switching the word ‘suffer’ for the phrase ‘living with’ and ‘disease’ for ‘dementia journey’. This will make a real difference in the tone of the conversation and will ultimately help to create a more positive approach to the situation.

Ultimately, although dementia can be a challenging journey, not only for the individual but for friends and family too, it’s vital to remember that having as active a lifestyle as possible is imperative. You’ll witness your friend or relative change as their dementia progresses but fundamentally, they are still the same person. When it comes to dementia it needn’t be the end after a diagnosis, and instead take it as an opportunity to develop your relationship with your loved one further and focus on creating happy memories together.

You can find out more about the Dutch dementia care technology Tovertafel™ at and the social enterprise organisation, Shift8 at

Back to LaterLife Interest Index

Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this


Latest Articles:

Health food of the month: Potatoes


Potatoes are more of a health food than many people realise. A medium, unsalted plain baked potato with skin will only have around 160 calories and is naturally fat and cholesterol free. On top of that, potatoes are full of phytonutrients, organic components of plants such as carotenoids, flavonoids and caffeic acid that promote health.


AXA Health: Dementia signs, symptoms and diagnosis


Poor brain function can be down to many things, but it can be an early warning sign of dementia. So it’s important not to ignore or dismiss it. Knowing the cause of the problem means you can get the right help and treatment. Unfortunately, there is no one test for dementia, partly because it isn’t a single disease.


Wake up to modern hypnotherapy

Man lying on a sofa

Hypnotherapy has been around for thousands of years and has enjoyed a range of reputations, from being considered a brilliant medical technique with real benefit to patients to a dark magic where people can be influenced to perform silly and embarrassing deeds.


Slow but sure, doctors are beginning to get on top of Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease is one of the problems associated with ageing because the symptoms usually begin to show after the age of 50. One in 500 people being affected by Parkinson’s, and at the moment there is no cure, so it is no wonder that as we age, Parkinson’s is one of the diseases we start worrying about.


Back to LaterLife Health Section

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti