Senior Living Care Blog

15 Communication Strategies For Dementia

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Apr 26, 2019 11:00:00 AM

There are many communication strategies for dementia that you can implement in your daily life to make conversation easier between you and a loved one. Dementia is a debilitating and serious disease that affects a person’s memory and ability to communicate, if you don’t know how to deal with someone who has this disease, it can escalate a situation and cause problems.


Communication becomes a problem for many people with dementia as it changes a person’s ability to communicate. Because the disease is progressive, symptoms become more prevalent and serious as time goes one. Some of the problems that you can expect to see through the progression of the disease include:

  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Using the same words repeatedly
  • Losing train of thought
  • Speaking less often
  • Using gestures rather than speaking


When these symptoms start to arise, it can be difficult to know how you can communicate effectively with your loved one as you may not have experience dealing with this type of disease.


Luckily there are a few strategies that you can use to try and guide your conversations with someone who has dementia. Here are 15 tips that you should consider when communicating with a loved one who has dementia:


1. Don’t Make Assumptions — Just because a person does have dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may still be able to communicate normally. The disease affects each patient differently and it is important to remember this when engaging in conversation with someone who has it.


2. Speak Directly To The Person — When talking with someone who has dementia, do exactly that: talk TO them. Don’t speak to them through a caregiver or companion. Speak to them by addressing them directly by name and maintaining eye contact. Doing this will show that you care about what he or she is saying and that you are there for them.

A woman talking to her mother on a bench at sunset. Strong communication strategies for demtia care is important.


3. Avoid Distractions — Sometimes, it is best to talk with your loved one in a small, quiet room if their dementia is impeding their communication abilities. This will allow you and your loved one to focus on the conversation at hand and not get distracted and use mental energy on other things that could disengage them from the conversation.


4. Listen Actively — One of the best things you can do when speaking with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia is to take the time to listen to what they are saying. Take the time to listen to what the person is saying when they are expressing their thoughts, feelings, or needs. This


5. Speak Clearly and Calmly — For many, communicating with a loved one leads to problems and a loss of patience. However, during these times it is important to remind yourself that it is the disease that is causing problems and not your loved one specifically. Be sure to speak in a warm and calm voice and not raise your tone and exacerbate the situation and lead to hostility. Likewise, don’t talk down to them in a condescending tone.


6. Don’t Pull Away A loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be a difficult thing to deal with but separating yourself from them is not the answer. Your friendship, love, and support are important and can help your loved one deal with the disease.


7. Write Notes At times, verbal communication can prove to be too difficult. Luckily, by writing down what you want to say, or having your loved one write something down, it can help guide the conversation.

A notepad with a pencil on the open pages. Taking notes is one of the best communication strategies for dementia care. 

8. Give Visual Cues — Sometimes, straight verbal communication can prove to be problematic and difficult for someone with dementia. If this is the case, using hand gestures and other visual cues can help your loved one communicate more effectively and encouraging your loved one to do the same will likely make conversations easier.


9. Don’t Correct Everything — If you get caught up in correcting every little problem or inaccurate statement the conversation may not go very far and may even turn hostile or cause an argument if your loved one begins to get frustrated.


10. Don’t Interrupt — When your loved one is speaking, let them finish their entire thought, question, or speech before responding or engaging again unless they ask for help. Similarly, give them time to respond to something you have said, it sometimes takes time to formulate a response or thought.


11. Ask Yes Or No Questions — Asking simple questions and framing them in a way that is easy to answer is one of the best ways to facilitate communication and conversation between you and someone dealing with dementia.


12. Laugh — Just because your loved one has a serious disease does not mean that you have to be serious all the time. It is important to lighten the mood at times and tell jokes. This will not only make communication more natural it can encourage your loved one to speak more as well.

A grandma playing with her grandson. Basic interaction is a great communication strategy for dementia care. 

13. Not Knowing What To Say Is Normal — It is OK if you are not exactly sure what you’re supposed to say or how to respond to something that your loved one has said. The most important part about being there for your loved one is exactly that, being there. Your presence and love are the most important things.


14. Identify Yourself — If the problem is severe enough, some dementia patients have trouble remembering or identifying who someone is, even if they have known them for years. If this is the case, the best method is to approach the person from the front so that they see you coming and identify yourself to them.


15. Be Patient — Speaking with a loved one who is dealing with dementia can be frustrating and can make you want to disengage. When this happens, take a step back and remember that your loved one is dealing with a problematic and debilitating disease that is hard to overcome.



Next Steps

As mentioned above, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can have a major impact on a person’s memory and their ability to communicate. Luckily, there are a few communication strategies for dementia that can make having a conversation easier. If the problem is too severe, it may be best to enlist the help of an assisted living facility. At Landmark Senior Living, we can provide your loved one with the care and social engagement that they need to keep them healthy and happy during this chapter of their lives. If you would like to learn more, please visit our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our facilities.



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Topics: Memory Care

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