Someone once said, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

Families sometimes don’t get on very well, for all sorts of reasons. Incidents that happened when people were young get brought up at times of crisis. Families don’t always live near to each other nowadays, which can make things difficult when it comes to deciding how to help an older relative who is diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. You will most likely need to talk about Care, Care Homes, Nursing Homes, Attendance Allowance, filling in forms etc

If you and your family get along really well that’s great but for those that don’t always see eye to eye, then these tips are for you.

1. Keep everyone at the same level

Make sure you are at the same eye level as the person(s) you are talking to. Don’t allow one person to dominate by being “above everyone else”.

2. Talk directly to the other person

Try to make eye contact, it will make sure they are fully engaged in what you are saying.

3. Don’t point

Pointing at someone makes them feel you are lecturing and belittling them.

4. Keep your temper

Keep your voice and tone even. This may sound obvious but you’ll have a better conversation if high emotion is left out.

5. Have an open mind

Approach the whole discussion as equals. No one is “right” and it’s not a competition about “winning an argument”. Everyone is entitled to their views, whether you agree with them or not.

6. Be clear about what you are saying

Be specific about what you’re saying. State what you’re concerned about, what you think needs to happen and why.  It may help if you write down things down beforehand. This will also help you to rationalise your own thoughts.

7. Allow the other person to have their say

Listen to what the other person says. This is not the same as hearing. You must appreciate that they may have a different view to you. Wait for them to finish and don’t interrupt.

8. Make sure you understand what they say

When situations are complicated it helps if you clarify that you’ve understood what the other person says and wants. Use phrases like “summing this up, we’ve agreed that… is that your understanding too?”

This may seem a bit formal for a discussion with people you are close to, but it will reduce the possibility of arguments in the future, which will then cause tension and resentment.

9. Stick to the topic in hand

Keep to the point. It will really help when you look back at the discussion. Don’t bring up old arguments or try to score points.

10. Don’t walk away

Even if you can’t agree, don’t leave the conversation until you’ve agreed you both need some time to think. If you can’t agree at the end of the conversation then say that you both need to think over what’s been said and that you will discuss it again – and give a time scale.

11. Take responsibility for yourself

It’s easy to blame other people for how you feel, but be clear about what they did or said but we are all responsible for how we respond.

12. Don’t assume

Even if you think you know how someone is going to react or what they want to do in the future, you don’t know how they are feeling right now.


This excerpt is taken from “Dementia: A Practical Handbook for Working People Caring for a Loved One” – author Sue Grogan, Joined-Up Working.