15 Communication Strategies for Someone with Dementia

Communication can be difficult with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Faced with forgetfulness and a decline in memory, language, and problem-solving and critical thinking skills, our loved ones can quickly lose their individuality, confidence, and sense of self.  

While means and methods of communication will certainly change, enjoyable and relaxed interactions are crucial for your loved one’s well-being. Consider some of the below tips for improved connection and communication strategies for someone with dementia


15 Communication Skills for Dementia

  1. Set a positive mood. Speak in a positive friendly voice with a smile and use facial expressions, tone of voice and physical touch so your loved one understands your message and sees your feelings of affection.
  2. Avoid distractions. Find a place and time to talk when there aren’t a lot of distractions. This helps your loved one to focus their mental energy on the conversation.
  3. Speak clearly and naturally in a warm calm voice. Speak slowly, clearly, and in simple sentences and avoid conversations that might take on a tone of frustration or condescension.
  4. Use people’s names. Don’t use pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they”. Names are important when speaking to a loved one with dementia. For example: “Hi, Grandma.  It’s me, Jeff,” is preferable compared to “Hi. It’s me.”
  5. Stick to one subject at a time. People with dementia may find it difficult to track changes of subject. It becomes difficult for them to hold a conversation with several subjects involved.
  6. Understand what you’re up against. Dementia typically will get worse with time. People with dementia gradually have a more difficult time understanding things, as well as communicating with people. Keeping that understanding in mind with each interaction will promote empathy in tough conversations. Additionally, doing your research and talking to others who have loved ones in similar situations can help you better understand what you are in for and manage expectations. 
  7. Ask simple questions. Asking just one question at a time that can be answered in simple phrases or with a yes or no answer works the best. Visual prompts or cues may also help clarify the question.
  8. Use nonverbal cues. Maintain eye contact and smile to help put your loved one at ease. When dementia is very advanced, nonverbal communication often becomes the only option available.
  9. Listen actively. A time may come when you don’t understand something your loved one is saying. Simply and politely let them know that you don’t understand.
  10. Don’t argue or correct. The conversation with your loved one isn’t very likely to go well if you are correcting every inaccurate statement. Let delusions and misstatements go for the sake of positive and productive conversation. 
  11. When it gets tough, distract and redirect – If your loved one gets upset or agitated, change the subject or location. Acknowledge that they are upset and then suggest a new location or subject. Further, consider bringing your loved one back into comfort with positive conversation, food and/or music.
  12. Patience. Speak slowly to give your loved one time to process what you say. If you ask a question, give them a moment to answer. Don’t get frustrated if they are unable to follow along and instead, make it a point to share sentiments like “I”m sorry,” and “thank you.” 
  13. There will be good days and bad days. Those with dementia tend to experience a downward decline, but people with dementia still have ups and downs just like anyone else, which impacts communication and conversation greatly.   
  14. The Good Old Days. Remembering the past is a soothing activity.  They may not remember what happened 30 minutes ago, but they tend to remember things in their lives 30 years ago. Never use the phrase, “Don’t you remember?” Instead you can say, “I remember when.” 
  15.  Validate any concerns. Oftentimes, our loved ones can express confusing emotions. Whether real or imaginary, acknowledging those concerns and allowing them to express their feelings will go a long way in promoting effective communication.

Communication Thrives in Communities that Support Dementia 

Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult and make communication difficult, however, it makes a significant difference in your loved-one’s well-being and willingness to communicate when they are in a comfortable and supportive environment that takes on a holistic approach centered on each person’s natural rhythm of life.  

parent and sonAt Sunny Vista, the unique challenges faced by individuals living with dementia are understood, and their Memory Care community is designed to provide exceptional support and care. With a compassionate and highly trained staff, they create a safe and nurturing environment where all residents can thrive. The Memory Care program at Sunny Vista focuses on personalized care plans tailored to each individual’s specific needs – ensuring that their physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being is prioritized, no matter the challenges they are up against. The program  

Through engaging activities and therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, and reminiscence therapy, they aim to enhance memory, cognition, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, the community is thoughtfully designed to promote independence and encourage socialization, allowing residents to maintain a sense of purpose and belonging. With round-the-clock support, a secure environment, and a commitment to dignity and respect, Sunny Vista’s Memory Care offerings provide a warm and supportive haven for individuals with dementia, each of which are offered the innovative Rhythms Dementia program designed to improve quality of life. 

Keep in mind that your loved one can’t change, but you can change your approach with them. They are living with challenges, but still benefit immensely from your love and affection. Taking into consideration the above communication tips, as well as helping your loved one find a safe and supportive community that prioritizes the comprehensive care of those living with dementia are major steps in improving your loved one’s quality of life and the ability to have enjoyable interactions with them. 

​Learn about the differences between normal aging and dementia.

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