How to Communicate With Someone Living With Dementia

The ability to communicate is a crucial part of our daily lives and it is something that most people don’t even think about; unfortunately for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia communication can become very tricky. Communication is often thought of as simply talking however most communication is non-verbal which is great news for people who have dementia. Being able to communicate needs and feelings is an important part of maintaining independence and self-identity; in this post we’ll look at some ways you can make communication easier with someone who has dementia.

Some tips for communicating with someone who has dementia include:

  • Planning what it is you want to say beforehand and trying to use short sentences, it also helps to speak a bit slower and as clearly as possible
  • Remaining calm and respectful – you don’t want to speak to the person as you would a child and getting frustrated will only distress them
  • Try and ask “yes” or “no” questions to avoid them becoming frustrated and try to avoid giving them too many decisions or options. If necessary break down your question into smaller parts to make it more understandable
  • Try to be positive and encouraging to put the other person at ease and make them comfortable with the idea of communicating (humor is always a good idea also)
  • Listen to them carefully – if you don’t understand what they’re saying ask them to explain it in a different way or phrase your question differently, don’t keep asking the same question over again

One thing to consider is that eventually as the dementia worsens it might become too difficult to communicate via speech in which case you might have to rely on non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication is usually easier than speaking for those who have dementia so it would be a great initiative to decide on a few gestures or facial expressions that communicate something specific such as “I don’t like that” “I want to go outside” “I’m hungry” etc. These gestures can be as simple as pointing at something, rubbing your stomach or whatever else might convey meaning between you both. Since we as humans often communicate through hand gestures and facial expression this will be one of the easier ways to communicate with someone who has dementia.

Someone who relies on non-verbal communication will read your body language so be sure to watch your facial expressions and gestures – keep them relaxed and try and match them to what you are trying to communicate. If the person becomes distressed or confused it can greatly help to convey your affection and care by simply holding their hand or placing your arm around their shoulders.