Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

They Say, You Say

When your loved one with cognitive impairment and memory loss is struggling and says something to you that doesn’t make sense or hurts your feelings, try these suggested responses.  

When They Say: “You didn’t tell me about that.”

You Say:I’m sorry. I thought I did. Let’s write it down so both of us remember.”

When They Say: “The bus is late.”

You Say: “Darn bus! Let me check the schedule for you.”

When They Say: “Someone stole my purse/keys/etc.”

You Say: “Let’s check around one last time. I might have missed it the first I looked.”

When They Say: Someone else’s name instead of yours.

You Say: “I love you, (loved one’s first name). I am your son/daughter/spouse/friend (your first name). (Name they used) is doing well.”

When They Say: “When are we leaving?”

You Say: “Not quite yet. We have a couple more things to do.”

When They Say: “I want to go home.”

You Say: “Home is a wonderful place, isn’t it? What is the best part of being home? Let’s go look in your apartment at some of our favorite things.”

When They Say: “I’m fine” when you know something is amiss.

You Say: “Do you hurt somewhere?” Ask these one at a time and point to the area as you ask: “Is your leg OK?” “Is your arm OK?” “Is your hand OK?” “Is your stomach OK?” “Is your head OK?” “Are you sad?”

Meet them where they are today. Introducing your reality will only shut them down.


Pam Ostrowski is author of It’s Not That Simple: Helping Families Navigate the Alzheimer’s Journey and Founder of

This article originally appeared in Alzheimer’s TODAY, Volume 16, Number 3, published by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. View the entire issue by clicking here.