According to a recent study, one of the worst things you can do is call an older person "sweetie" or "dear". You might think you're showing warmth and kindness, but it's also giving messages to older adults that they're incompetent. In fact, you could be triggering " a negative downward spiral for older persons, who react with decreased self-esteem, depression, and withdrawal". In this study, the researchers videotaped interactions in a nursing home between residents and staff members. They found that patients were more aggressive and less receptive to care when addressed with terms of endearment. They found this to be especially true of patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.
The main task of a person with Alzheimer's or dementia is to maintain a sense of self. If you know you are losing your cognitive abilities and trying to maintain your sense of self, and someone talks to you like a baby, it can be upsetting to you. Think twice about how you talk to older people. One day you will be old too.