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02 Mar 2022


Communicating with a loved one with dementia

Losing the ability to communicate can be distressing for both a person living with dementia and their loved ones. You may feel saddened and overwhelmed as your loved one’s communication skills deteriorate or frustrated as you no longer understand their wants and needs.

• Always announce yourself by name, rather than relationship, and approach your loved one from the front to avoid startling them. Saying “Brenda” instead of “it’s your daughter” acts as a verbal cue that may help jog the person’s memory and avoids confusion if they are unable to recall close relationships that day.

• As dementia progresses your loved ones may struggle with logic and reasoning. This is why it’s important to keep conversation simple and stories brief. Focus on one topic at a time, keep the conversation pleasant and avoid using slang, nicknames or discussing complicated subjects.

• Until the late stages of dementia, most people retain many of their long-term memories. Instead of focusing on what the person has forgotten, try and highlight what they do remember.

• People living with dementia may need more time to find the right words or to complete a thought. Avoid rushing them or jumping in and trying to complete their sentence. Let your loved ones speak without interruption. Expressing any form of frustration or impatience tends to make things worse.

• Certain non-verbal cues like smiling transcend all languages and convey a sense of joy and calmness to your loved ones. Smiling, holding their hand, and making eye contact are all dementia communication techniques that can be used to reassure your loved one and put them at ease.

• Avoid sudden movements, frowning, speaking harshly or any other non-verbal cues that can be distressing or startling to a person with dementia.

• Never talk down to the person or use any form of “baby talk”. It doesn’t improve communication in any way and it can be insulting to the person. Use the same respectful tone of voice that you would use when speaking to any older adult.

• Dementia can make it difficult for a person to focus, so try and find a quiet and comfortable place to talk. Limit any potential distractions such as TV, radio, or any other distracting objects or sights. If possible, sit face-to-face with the person in a quiet and calm place.

• A common mistake that people make when communicating with their loved ones with dementia is using the words “no”, “can’t” or “don’t” too often. When communicating, these words act as barriers and can lead to resistance or frustration from the person who feels they are being challenged.

• People living with dementia will make mistakes in communication. They will confuse and mispronounce words and struggle with other language problems. It’s important not to nitpick the person or to constantly correct their language. Go with the flow of conversation and learn to ignore inaccurate words or mispronunciations. Help your loved ones find the right words to use without overcorrecting them.

• For a person living with dementia, answering questions can be difficult and lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety. When speaking to your loved ones, always ask-close ended questions or questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no statement.

The Good Care Group is the only live-in professional provider to be awarded Outstanding in all 5 key lines of ‘Outstanding’ in all five categories. We deliver live-in care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that enable people to live with choice, dignity and independence in the comfort of their home, whilst improving lifestyle and quality of life.


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