Dementia Friendly Teaching is Everyone Friendly

SDM recently gave a presentation about being a dementia friendly business to the Greater Boston Network group. While working on this, we came to understand that these teaching methods are simply best practices in teaching to people of all abilities. Now we say “dementia friendly teaching is everyone friendly teaching”. Here is what we are working on.

People with Different Abilities

At SDM we help people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. We continue to grow as teachers, learning to reach people more effectively all the time. SDM does not only help older people, but we certainly help a lot of older people. Memory issues are one of the greatest difficulties that we see in our teaching.

Our goal is to be the most effective teachers we can be. We want to make every experience successful and productive. All of the SDM staff is very patient and knowledgable, and we continue to learn new techniques to become even better.

Dementia friendly teaching methods

Some of these ideas make so much sense when you hear them. Using positive phrases like “click on the envelope” instead of negative phrases like “don’t click on the envelope”, is one of those. The action of clicking is remembered much more easily than the negative applied to it. What a person might actually retain in either case would be the direction to click on the envelope.

Choose words carefully. Break work into small chunks. Get agreement at each step of the process. These are important for all teaching. At SDM we teach, we don’t do for. We mean that the client will be doing the clicking and the typing.

Extraneous information is not helpful for most new learners. If we are adding an email address to a phone, the client does not need to know that there are other apps that could be used, or that there are ways to access the email in a browser. Extra information should be shared in a side conversation at the end of the lesson. Stick to the information that is needed in the lesson.

Use of Words

Technology has a vocabulary that is both totally unique, and also made up of every day words. A mouse, a click, a tap, a swipe – all are words that are used every day. But they are also words that have a specific meaning when applied to a phone, tablet or computer.

When a client uses a word to describe something, unless it is unavoidable to correct them, don’t. A client calls something a code that we might commonly refer to as a password. There is usually no need to correct the word. Use the word the client understands. When you run into a situation where there is both a code AND a password, decide whether the client needs to know. If it is necessary, explain when you said code, I think you meant this, but we need to call that a password, because there is other thing that is called a code.

Good Practices

People with memory issues sometimes say things that do not match what you know to be the facts. Most of the time that this occurs, there is no need to correct the person. It is usually easy to deflect, or steer the conversation in another direction.

If our client says, “I never had a password”, we know this is likely not to be true. But so what? Explain that the computer believes that there is a password, and your goal is to get past the request. Having a debate, or pointing out every error only increases stress and makes learning harder.


Alzheimer’s Association –

Act on Alzheimer’s –

Help for Alzheimer’s Families –

Please call and make an appointment for yourself or your family/friend who might be able to learn with us. We welcome people of all abilities. Remember, dementia friendly teaching is everyone friendly teaching!

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