Communication Tips for Dementia Caregivers

As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progresses, communication can become impaired, which can lead to frustration, confusion and stress. However, there are ways for dementia caregivers to communicate effectively with loved ones impacted by the disease.Communication Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Learn more about the top communication tips for caregivers.

The Impact of Dementia on Communication

As Alzheimer’s and dementia progresses, the person affected may begin to have trouble communicating.

While the exact progression of the disease is different for each person, it is common for them to repeat stories or not be able to find the words they need to share a story or get their point across. Other communication issues may include inventing new words, disorganized speech, easily losing track of thoughts and speaking in tangents, speaking in a native language or even speaking less.

Even if the person who is affected by dementia cannot properly express themselves, they can often still respond and experience feelings and emotions. Though, they may also have trouble understanding others. This makes communicating with someone who has dementia more complicated and can make some caregivers feel anxious, irritated and helpless.

The Importance of Showing Empathy and Patience

When communicating with a person affected by dementia, how you say something is often more important than what you say.

They may become frustrated that they are failing to communicate something and may also be frustrated because they don’t understand what is being communicated to them. It is crucial to show understanding, empathy and patience.

Here are some tips to show compassion in communication.

Tips for Communicating with Someone Affected by Dementia

  1. Do not interrupt the person speaking.
  2. Let them know it’s okay if they have trouble finding their words.
  3. Avoid criticizing or correcting, and repeat what they said if something needs to be clarified.
  4. Focus on feelings rather than facts and be aware of tone of voice and body language.
  5. Show respect in your speech by avoiding baby talk.
  6. Do not talk about your loved one like they are not in the room.  Always assume he or she can understand what you are saying.
  7. Stay calm even if the conversation becomes frustrating.

Dos and Don’ts for Communicating with Someone Affected By Dementia

  • Do your best to eliminate any distractions such as TV or radio
  • Do keep it simple by asking one question or giving one direction at a time if your loved one does not remember how to perform activities of daily living
  • Don’t use negative statements
  • Do use their first name to get their attention
  • Do speak in a normal tone of voice at a normal volume
  • Do ignore offensive language and try to redirect attention if the person with dementia begins using bad language
  • Do encourage reminiscing if it’s enjoyable for your loved one
  • Don’t be personally offended if the person who has dementia becomes paranoid or accusatory
  • Don’t stop trying

Even if a loved one has lost most verbal skills, remember that people with Alzheimer’s can understand smiles, laughter and a kind touch.

What are some tried and true ways that you have used to communicate with a loved one who has dementia? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Molly

    my husband has Parkinson’s Disease and his speech and thought process is affected

  • senior3citizen

    my Mother has vascular dementia and unable to comprehend what I am saying sometimes so I have ruled notebook paper which I print in large lettering what I want to say.

  • Mary

    Compliments have worked wonders on my Ma’s mood and attitude. After telling her that she made a very, very smart decision to move into the Oak Park Arms and she worked all her life for the Social Security and savings that are paying for it, I could hear the smile in her voice.

  • Morag Swanepoel

    My partner with VD started talking in Fanagalo a lot.
    It started at night in her half sleep but became quite normal for her to lapse into this language. It seemed to be a phase but she still felt comfortable using it.

    With regards Hearing – she did go through some months of not being able to hear and I thought this was her brain but turned out to actually be a huge build up of wax. The lesson here is to not blame dementia for everything.
    Very difficult when the patient cannot communicate.
    Best wishes and love to all Care Warriors out there – its the hardest thing I ever have done in my life.

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