I just read an article about "elderspeak" and how patronizing and negative it is to speak to someone this way. I used to speak like I would to everyone but now her mind is like a 2 year old. She'd rather eat with her fingers and doesn't let me feed her hand under hand. We are at a stage where while she will do the introductory chit chat with people she doesn't know, she will babble, get into things, destroy things if allowed similar to a child.

She babbles at her stuffed animals like a child would play with toys and gets upset if we move them. Years ago she was still behaving like an adult. Now unless I speak slower and in a more calming and encouraging way she will just stare at me. If I say "we need to take your pills now sweetie" and guide her through it then I have luck. If I approach her with the same tone I would an adult she screams and is defiant. I have cared for other elderly patients and have never spoken to them this way. I feel though in this case she wants this. She tears her diapers and smears what's inside all over if I let her..this isn't the mind of an adult anymore. I felt a little insulted by that article. It's not lack of respect for her that makes me talk this way. It's her stage. I believe if a loved one is functioning on some level then of course you should speak to them as you would an older adult. But what do you do if babying them is the only way they respond?

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I made the mistake of venting to my sister ( who has never lifted a finger) about how after getting very frustrated with Mom that I just put on my "nurse hat" and set a calm slow tone to avoid losing it .
She immediately jumped down my throat for treating Mom like that and how terrible a person I am for treating Mom that way.... She imagined I was talking down in a sing song sort of voice....
I tell you what- we are human beings and dealing with a person 24/7 day in and day out can get very very frustrating at times. I feel that using my nurse voice is about the best I can do If I have to talk I do that........ Using a soft professional voice is not baby talk...and It is a whole lot better than yelling for sure. My Mom can't be yelled at...she would be so fearful. She has anxiety already. So I just do my best to be kind even when she is unreasonable. Sometimes I fall short of what I want to be to my precious Mother. But I just keep trying and know that everyone doing this understands how it is ...
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I think there is a difference between speaking "slower and in a more calming and encouraging way" and using the kind of overly simplistic, higher pitch sing song voice that people often use with small children and pets. And for sure there is a difference between terms of endearment from a caregiver you see often enough to have a relationship with and having a relative stranger calling you sweetie or - my personal least favourite - mom. And as near as I can tell the people in the NH respond just as well to being encouraged to finish their lunch because there won't be anything else til supper as they do to - "oh, what a good girl" when they take a bite of food. I think the real danger of elderspeak, especially in an institutional setting, is that it allows caregivers to lump everyone into a category of those less capable rather than seeing each person as an individual.

edit: I'm not sure what article you read but did it mention that studies have show that behavioural problems actually are higher when those with dementia are subjected to it?
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No advice is one size fits all. I think if what you are doing makes caring for your mom easier, you should keep doing it. It isn't a bad idea to alert people that speaking down to people who just have some 'snow on the roof' can be insulting.

When I am out with my 89 year old mother, who has no cognitive deficit , people don't speak to her at all. They speak to me. "How would she like her steak cooked?" "How would she like her hair cut?" My mom HATES to be referred to as 'she'.
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When you’re dealing with someone like this, it’s certainly whatever works. When my mother was in a facility, the aides and nurses adapted their conversations to each individual’s needs. There were some people who highly resented being called “honey” or “sweetie” by people much younger than themselves. And others who welcomed and enjoyed it.

I would certainly continue to speak to this lady using whatever words and tone of voice works. Sometimes when I read articles like this, I truly wonder whether the author had any experience at all with people who have dementia—I mean down in the trenches experience.

Do what works for her, and you.
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Thank you for sharing this. I've always become so frustrated and indignant when I hear people speaking to elderly folks with dementia as if they were children. Even toddlers. I thought it was it disrespectful and condescending. True, so many times our loved ones regress as their dementia progresses. It's easy to understand how we can begin to infantilize them. Having worked in health care for 20 years we were advised over and over to never do this. We were advised never to use "honey" or "sweetie" or any other pet name. Personally, it makes me crazy when someone calls me "kiddo." I'm 49 years old!

If this is what works for you then I say by all means, keep it up. Lord knows we can't always discover what works well and are lost in trying to care for someone with dementia. If this lady responds to soothing sweet talk you're ahead of the game. She obviously finds it comforting and people should always try to do what is comforting with people who have dementia.
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