#DementiaWords – let’s think about how we talk about dementia
Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 09.06.15


Words matter. They carry meaning, tell a story and provoke emotion.

The words we use to describe people and organisations in our work as a PR agency shape how they are perceived by their audiences.

We have a responsibility – what we say and, how we say it, matters.

Our campaigns are adopted by the media, the stories that we tell are shared through social media and our messages help influence key decision makers.

We work with a number of clients in the social care sector and much of our communications focus is around older people and also individuals who are living with dementia.

Please note I said ‘living with’ dementia not ‘suffering from’, I also said ‘older people’ not the ‘elderly’ or the ‘frail’. We don’t talk about ‘epidemics’ or ‘crisis’ we try to use facts wherever possible and provide hope and encourage development and progress.

Our job is to communicate accurately and our words are intended to empower not put down.

That’s why we support the ‘Call to Action’ by DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) and Dementia Action Alliance around the language used to describe people with dementia.

These organisations have called for us all to be mindful about the language we use, to stop using stereotypes and phrases that might be hurtful to those living with dementia and their families.

The effect of our words is summed up perfectly by Agnes Houston, vice chair of the European Person With Dementia Working Group.

She said: “Words are very powerful – they can build you up or put you down. When you are speaking about dementia remember this.”

We’ve committed to their call to action and if you’d like to do the same you can find out more info here: www.dementiaaction.org.uk/dementiawords

DEEP and Dementia Action Alliance’s Call to Action

We ask you/your organisations to commit to the three ‘C’s:

  • Check words and descriptions used in your printed materials
  • Change any words and descriptions that people with dementia have identified as ones to avoid
  • Challenge words which you recognise as our ‘curl up and die’ words whenever you see or hear them – in newspapers, on TV, on websites and in conferences and meetings
  • And pass on the challenge to others to take forward in their own settings