5 Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Has Dementia

Adult children and others caring for someone with dementia often struggle with communication. Depending on the stage of dementia your loved one is in, he or she might have trouble finding the right words to express themselves. They may forget what they were trying to say or use phrases repeatedly. Their words may become jumbled or they may resort to gestures instead of words. There also are likely to be times when talking no longer seems possible.

These five tips can help improve your ability to communicate with your loved one. Keep in mind that dementia affects everyone differently, so it is important to communicate in a way that is right for the person in your care.

1. Listen to what the person is saying. Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen. Let your loved one express his or her thoughts and feelings, and listen to them intently. Offer encouragement by making eye contact and nodding. Try not to interrupt the person, even to help them find the right word – and carefully consider the words you choose when responding.

2. Communicate in a conversational way. Use short, simple sentences and allow time between sentences for the person to process the information and respond. As their cognitive abilities slow down, it can be difficult for them to process several ideas at once. Let the person complete their own sentences and avoid assuming too quickly that you know what they are trying to say.

3. Phrase questions in a way that allows for simple answers. Asking, “What would you like to drink?” requires your loved one to come up with an answer, and it can be stressful when he or does not have the words to express what they want. Instead, ask if they would like a cup of tea or coffee. Questions with a yes or no answer are also easy to respond to.

4. Avoid saying, “I just told you that”. Expressing your frustration over repetitive questions or answers to someone with dementia only reminds them of their condition. Try to be patient and respectful when you speak to your loved one. They need to feel heard and understood.

5. Laugh together about misunderstandings and mistakes. Shared humor can help relieve tension and bring you closer together.

If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is important to acknowledge that there will be times when you get impatient or frustrated – and that seeking support is essential to your own health and well-being. Dorson Home Care provides a range of at-home dementia care services for residents of Northern and Central New Jersey and their families. Dorson Home Care, Inc. is fully licensed by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and is accredited by PCS & Skilled Services. To learn more about our dementia care services, please call our West Orange, NJ office at 973.672.7691.