Skip to main content

Telling someone they have dementia

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, should you tell them? And, if so, how do you tell them sensitively?

Everyone’s different. You’ll know best what will work best for your loved one. But these are some suggestions and strategies to help you share the news as effectively and sensitively as possible.

Deciding whether to tell your loved one

This can be hard, but if your friend or family member is able to make their own choices, they should be allowed to decide whether they want to know about their diagnosis, even if this is different from what you’d choose.

In most cases, we’d recommend that you do tell your loved one about their diagnosis. But if they’ve made it clear that they don’t want to know, that’s their right.

Planning ahead

If you do choose to tell your loved one about their diagnosis, plan how you’ll share the news. These are some things to consider:

  • Who will tell them? Are you going to tell them about their diagnosis? Or will your loved one’s doctor, specialist or assessment team tell them?
  • What will you tell them? It’s worth planning out what you’re going to say.
  • How can you support them? Think about how your loved one might react and what help they might need. Try to have someone else there to support them too.
  • Where will you tell them? Try to find somewhere that’s quiet and distraction-free.

Information to share

You’ll need to think about your family member or friend’s specific situation when you’re deciding what to tell them. But you might choose to share:

  • why their symptoms are occurring
  • the type of dementia they have, using terms they can understand
  • any possible treatments for their symptoms
  • services and support programs for people with dementia.

Tips for telling your loved one

These tips can help when you’re telling your friend or family member about their diagnosis:

  • Speak slowly and directly.
  • Share one piece of information at a time.
  • Give them time to absorb the information and form any questions.
  • Print out information that they can look at later. Our website has a range of resources and support designed for people living with dementia, or you can contact the National Dementia Helpline for information.

We have collected information, advice and support for people who’ve just learned they have dementia on one page:

It’s okay to take care of your own health and happiness. If you're struggling as someone who cares for a person with dementia, contact the free, confidential National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, any time of the day or night, for information, advice and support.

Share or print
Last updated
19 February 2024