Communicating with a Loved One that has Dementia


As a loved one’s cognitive presence fades, family members often struggle with finding ways to communicate and stay connected. Interacting with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia takes patience and understanding, as the Alzheimer’s Association notes. The following tips can help you maintain a connection with your loved one as dementia progresses.

Take time to prepare

Before speaking with your loved one, take a moment to ensure that you’re feeling calm, and think about a topic for conversation. As you begin interacting, make sure that the individual has a clear view of you. Try to keep eye contact, and turn off loud TVs or radios that may be distracting.

Speak Intentionally

Try to speak more slowly than normal, and make sure your voice sounds clear and calm. Avoid raising your voice, and try to use simple and short sentences.

If other people are present, attempt to include the individual with dementia in the overall conversation to avoid any feelings of exclusion. Ensure that your facial expression and your body language match your words.

Focus on the Present

Every moment doesn’t need to be filled with talking, as A Place for Mom notes. It’s fine to sit quietly and communicate nonverbally with your loved one; for instance, you can simply look into her eyes and smile or hold hands. Being true in the moment and present with your loved one is critical.

Enjoy Music Together

Research indicates that music has a variety of positive effects for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Improved recall of memories and emotions, enhanced mental performance, better moods and more positive interactions are among the many benefits of music. Incorporating music into your communications can be especially effective if your loved one has lost the ability to communicate in other ways.

Listen and Encourage

Be prepared to carefully listen to your loved one and to encourage him or her to continue communicating. Watch body language and facial expressions for clues to meaning, and ask the individual to repeat something in a different way if you don’t understand. To reassure your loved one and to communicate your feelings, don’t be afraid to hold hands or show other physical affection.

Be Flexible

Seniors suffering from dementia often link seemingly unrelated stories and time periods, and they can seem confused about present versus past. You can communicate more effectively with your loved one if you can be flexible on traditional narrative points like time frames and simply go with the flow of her thoughts.

Understanding Dementia

Communicating with a loved one who is suffering from dementia can be challenging and frustrating. Remember that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can cause mood swings and changes in personality and behavior. By preparing in advance, listening and encouraging, you can continue to communicate and stay connected with your loved one.