How to Better Communicate with Someone with Dementia  

It hurts to see a loved one deteriorate in the face of Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia. As the condition advances from one stage to the next, the person affected will begin to experience challenges in communicating. The progression of the disease varies for each person but it’s common for sufferers to show signs of minor forgetfulness to severe impairment.

Learning how to connect with your relative or friend in the midst of dementia care is important. This will not occur overnight and will require practice and patience. Even so, you can be sure that it will be worth your while.

  • Do your homework. Like with many other challenges in life, you need to know what you’re up against so you can put together a solid strategy. There are plenty of resources online that you should take advantage of. If your loved one is currently living in a senior care community like those from Arcare, make it a point to speak with the personal support team to expand your knowledge and get some expert advice on proper dementia care.
  • Set a positive mood. Prepare both your heart and your mind for the talk. Don’t attempt to communicate when you’re already upset as your body language and attitude will likely only set off an argument. Always remember to maintain a respectful and pleasant manner while speaking. Use physical touch and facial expressions to convey your feelings or message.
  • Limit any distractions. Before you try to say anything, be sure to get their attention first. Find a place and time when there aren’t a lot of things to distract them. Move to a different venue, shut the door, close the curtains, and turn off the television or radio if you have to. This will allow them to focus their mental energy on your conversation.
  • Speak clearly and concisely. Steer clear of any abstractions and complex language along with fluid questions and multi-step instructions. Instead, go for simple words and sentences, preferably things that prompt them to take one step at a time. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, repeat or rephrase it slowly and distinctly.

  • Redirect the situation. In the event that they get agitated or upset, try changing the environment, scene, dynamic, or subject. For example, try something like, “how about let’s get something to eat?” or put on some instrumental music. This is called redirecting and can be effective when the mood needs to be changed.
  • Be as supportive as possible. When they’re trying to communicate with you, show them that you care and encourage them to express how they’re feeling. Regardless of the circumstances, let them know that you’re not annoyed and that you’re listening. Be patient in waiting for their reply to your questions. If they’re still struggling, prompt them to try hand gestures.
  • Reminisce the past. Talking about the good old days can be affirming and soothing for those under dementia care. They might have a hard time recalling what happened earlier that day but they can sometimes clearly remember their childhood or teenage years. Asking general questions about their distant past can be pretty effective for this purpose.
  • Be easy on yourself. Think you responded in the wrong way in a given situation? Understand that there will be both good and bad days for both you and your loved one. Move on and learn from your mistakes rather than feel guilty about what you can’t change. You should be patient not just on the sufferer but on yourself as well.


Taking care of another human being is hard work, especially when that person is suffering from dementia. You might not be born knowing how to communicate with them properly but you can learn. It will take a good amount of effort on your part but the moment you get to open their shell and meaningfully connect with them will show you that all the trouble is worth it.

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