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Communicating with a Person with Dementia

May 30, 2018

Dementia commonly affects a person’s ability to speak and communicate their needs. This can be a big challenge for the person and their loved ones, often causing frustration on both sides.  People aren’t born knowing the best way to communicate with a person with dementia, but we can learn by following some of the below tips. Keep in mind that your loved ones brain might be slower at processing information and gathering thoughts to communicate.

  1. Gain their attention
    When speaking to your loved one limit distractions and noises, make sure you have their full attention, identify yourself by name/relation, address them by name, and keep eye contact.
  1. Keep a positive mood
    To convey your message and show your affection try to: speak with a pleasant tone, a good tone of voice, maintain good body language, use facial expressions, and physical touch.
  2. Listen with all you have
    It is important to give your loved one enough time to express themselves and stay patient waiting for their reply, also avoid rushing them or finishing their sentences. Note any non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions, movement and posture.
  3. Ask simple questions
    Ask one question at a time, preferably ones requiring yes or no answers. Don’t ask open-ended questions or give too many choices.
  4. Break activities into steps
    Encourage your loved one to do what they can, gently remind them of any steps they forget and assist them when no longer able to accomplish it on their own.
  5. Have a clear message
    Speak distinctly and slowly, use simple words, and a reassuring tone. If your loved one does not understand, repeat yourself or give it a few minutes before rephrasing.
  6. Keep your sense of humor
    People with dementia usually retain their social skills and enjoy laughing along with you.
  7. Remember the past
    While they might not have a great short term memory, your loved one can likely clearly recall memories from many years ago. It can be soothing for them to remember the past.
  8. Respond with affection and reassurance
    Your loved one might feel anxious, confused, or unsure of themselves. Don’t convince them they are wrong but instead focus on the feelings they have and provide the reassurance and support they need.
  9. Distract and redirect if needed
    If your loved one gets agitated or upset, switch up the subject or environment to calm them down.

Working to improve your communication skills with your loved one will help make caregiving less stressful and is likely to improve your relationship.  

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