Dementia language


Why we should watch our language

ADS promotes ‘living well with dementia’ and encourages people to avoid using words and phrases with negative connotations that reinforce stereotypical views of dementia. We think everyone should be more aware of the language they use when talking about dementia, whether they are a professional or a member of the public.

A few examples of the terminology identified by the ADS team are provided below.

  • Demented or dementia sufferers – These phrases are dehumanising. We prefer to talk about the person living with dementia.
  • Senile dementia – This is an old fashioned phrase, and again we prefer talking about the person living with dementia.
  • Wandering – This makes it sound random or suggests that there is no purpose. We prefer phrases such as: walking, moving about, being active or positive walking.
  • References to aggression, being aggressive, or being violent – These words blame the person or makes it sound like their action was deliberate. We prefer phrases such as: distressed or distress reaction.
  • Challenging behaviour – This makes it sound like the person is being deliberately challenging or difficult. We prefer phrases such as: distress reaction, distress behaviour, or behaviour that challenges others.

Additionally, the DEEP group consists of people with dementia, and they have produced a useful guide which indicates the words and phrases they would like people to avoid using. To access “Dementia Words Matter” please visit Dementia Words Matter.

Professor Dawn Brooker was also a co-author on the following article about the language used around the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia: Wolverson, E., Birtles, H., Moniz-Cook, E., James, I., Brooker, D. and Duffy, F. (2019). Naming and Framing the Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) Paradigm: Professional Stakeholder Perspectives. OBM Geriatrics, 3(4): 19, 209-227. doi:10.21926/obm.geriatr.1904080