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With dementia, emotional memory and feelings are left intact

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

A person living with dementia is a person, first and foremost, with the same human rights as everyone else.

People living with dementia themselves declare that they prefer not to be called ‘demented’ or a ‘dementia sufferer’

Dementia means that there is damage in one or more lobes of the brain, which can cause problems with storing and recalling memory; language and communication; planning, thinking, judging and learning; movement; and processing sounds and vision.

However, it does not mean that the person with dementia cannot feel. While factual memory and rational thinking are often impaired with dementia, emotional memory and feelings are left intact.

“As we become more emotional and less cognitive, it’s the way you talk to us, not what you say, that we will remember. We know the feeling, but we don’t know the plot” Christine Bryden (person living with dementia)*

In other words, a person with dementia can still feel sad, angry, and so on, if events upset them (and similarly joyful and excited if events please them).

Dementia does not directly cause any particular unusual behaviours. Instead, it can cause the brain to interpret scenarios in a way that is different from our interpretation, and the person will respond accordingly. Often the response is quite sensible, if you can see the world through their eyes!

Top Tip

If you are concerned or puzzled by a behaviour, try to find out why the person is doing it – never dismiss a behaviour as “that’s just the dementia.”

Useful resources

*Dancing With Dementia, by Christine Bryden Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2005

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