When interviewing people with dementia

People with dementia have been very generous about opening up their homes to the media and sharing their personal experiences of living with a disease that can make every day activities a challenge and simple conversations a hardship. When conducting an interview, please be respectful and sensitive to the unique challenges people with dementia face.

The journalist should keep the following in mind:

  • Be patient—don’t finish sentences for the person.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Ask one simple question at a time. Be aware that you may have to repeat the question.
  • Be alert to the fact that the interviewee may become tired or confused. 
  • A care partner will likely be present and may need to help with the interview.

  • Establish an appropriate length of time for the interview based on the person’s needs (e.g., some interviewees may be comfortable with a long interview while others may only be able to participate in short interviews).

  • Consider providing your questions in advance in written form so that the person with dementia may prepare a response.

  • Try to be flexible about when the interview takes place. A person with dementia may have good days and bad.

  • People in the later stages of the disease are not able to conduct interviews. A care partner will need to speak on their behalf.

  • If you are filming people with dementia, be aware that they may have trouble carrying out even simple instructions. Again, be patient.

  • Please remember that people with dementia often have trouble expressing themselves and articulating their thoughts, but they continue to be intelligent and thoughtful and should be treated with respect.

    Interviewing Tips courtesy of Alzheimer Society of Canada

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