One of the things we enjoy about family is the familiarity. We have a routine and pattern to our interaction that is easy and comfortable. Once short-term memory is gone and dementia creeps in, that ease and comfort is gone.
One of the hardest things for me to adapt to was how to spend time with these new people who are still my parents. I started to ask them leading questions and I used my time to learn more about them. I use facts I know and weave them into questions. Here are some examples of questions and how I incorporate them into a conversation with my parents:
Mom, after you finished up your degree at [college], what did you do?
– How did you get that job?
– Did you like the job?
Dad, how did you propose to mom?
– Did you ask her father first?
When did the two of you meet?
– Did you immediately know you liked him/her?
Some general questions to use to get the ball rolling:
– You had x siblings, who were you most like / unlike?
– Was there one sibling you spent time with? What did you do together?
– Did you ever have any nicknames growing up? How did you get that nickname?
– What was the name of your elementary/middle/high school?
– Did you have a favorite teacher?
– What was the first car you drove?
Over the course of a year, I created hundreds of questions.* Growing up, Siblings, Spouse, Parents, Firsts, Traditions. Empowered.
*I turned these questions into a book called the MemoryBanc Monograph that can be found at www.MemoryBanc.com.
3 thoughts on “Conversational questions to ask a parent who has dementia”
Good stuff! How well do your parents do with these questions? Hit and miss? Some days better than others?
Great question. It’s hit or miss, but each one usually leads to them talking about something from their past.
I’ve learned a few things about them I had never known (okay, or just didn’t remember!). Lately, my mom’s much better at recalling stories from her youth than my dad, which has been a surprise.