How To Talk To Someone With Dementia (2022 Caregiver Tips) (2023)

Trying to learn the best methods on how to talk to someone with dementia?

Memory is the most commonly associated symptom of dementia, but did you know language is also highly affected? People with dementia, particularly those with the less common Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), will experience direct effects on the part of the brain in charge of communication.

As someone enters the later stages of dementia, they may become non-verbal. The parts of their brain that communicate language outwardly and understand incoming language are negatively impacted as dementia progress (at which point memory care becomes a more serious option).

And actually, language is sometimes even the first symptom of dementia before memory issues begin. So solidifying good communication with dementia patients early on is vital to their therapy and ensuring they feel safe, comfortable, and heard.

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia (2022 Caregiver Tips) (1)

12 Caregiver Tips to Communicate Effectively With People With Dementia

It’s one thing to know how to physically care for someone with dementia by helping them:

  • Get dressed
  • Bathe
  • Transport to their wheelchair
  • Get around the memory care facility
  • Eat meals
  • Make it to doctor’s appointments
  • etc.

But it’s quite another to communicate and make that emotional connection. Without that, it can exacerbate anxiety, depression, agitation, and other behavioral symptoms associated with dementia.

(Video) How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

The tips below are as vital a part of dementia care as all of the rest. This helpful guide can ensure caregivers and nurses give their absolute best care to their dementia patients, so they can live fulfilling lives.

1. Avoid Pet Names: Call Them Their Preferred Name

Calling them honey, sweetheart, or anything but their name can confuse them and agitate them. Speak to your patients or loved one in a calm, normal voice, using their actual name or preferred nicknames. This will get you a better and more attentive response.

2. Avoid Using Slang Words

Another way to quickly lose communication is to use many slang words or figures of speech or say things in an unclear way. Slang can be a generational thing, and using current slang may confuse the individual. Just keep things light, simple, to the point, and you’ll be able to get your point across without losing them.

3. Do Not Interrogate

It can sometimes be difficult to maintain composure when trying to communicate with an irritated patient. But further interrogating them if they aren’t listening or cooperating is the last thing you should do. Try these tactics instead:

  • Constant reassurance
  • Speak slower
  • The art of distraction
  • Change the way you were saying it initially
  • Take some deep breaths, and encourage them to do the same

Once everyone is calm, you can try again to get them to do what you need them to do, but with a different attitude and mindset.

4. Don’t Ignore Them When They’re Trying to Communicate

Despite having severe issues with communication or understanding, dementia patients may still have cognition that comes and goes or is more than you think. So do not ignore them or talk about them like they’re not in the room. The wonder of dementia is that it is so complex that speech and communication could be there sometimes, with certain things, and gone the next.

Also, don’t ignore them because they may be trying to say something, but it’s coming out verbally in the wrong way. Repetition can also be a tick or a way for them to communicate in a roundabout way that their brain just isn’t connecting. So pay attention to things they say frequently or at certain times, and don’t ignore them, especially if you notice them getting irritated.

(Video) Caregiver Training: Refusal to Bathe | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia (2022 Caregiver Tips) (2)

5. Engage in Gentle Touch (If They’re Okay With That)

Some people with dementia get very agitated with physical touch, so don’t always use it during a conversation if that’s the case. However, a slight gentle touch can help them engage more with you and listen to what you’re saying.

6. Guide the Conversation, But Be Patient

It can be challenging to keep a conversation going with someone who has dementia. So try to guide the conversation, but not in an interrogating way. Use open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no, and build on what they say.

You may have to repeat yourself or use simpler words, but if you’re patient, they’ll be able to follow along.

7. Even if They Don’t Respond, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Listening

It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like your loved one with dementia isn’t responding to you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. They often take in everything you’re saying, even if they can’t respond. So be encouraged by that and keep talking to them in a comfortable way for both of you.

8. No Baby Talk

Infantilizing Alzheimer’s or dementia patients is a prevalent and unfortunate thing that happens with loved ones or even caretakers. Elderspeak is when people speak to older adults in a high-pitched, slow voice as they would a baby.

9. Speak Clear and Concise, Not Loud

Speaking louder doesn’t mean they’re going to listen better. In the case of dementia, loud voices and noises may actually be interpreted as a sign of aggression and could trigger some anxiety and agitation within them.

(Video) Part II: Four Tips for Caregivers of a Person Living with Alzheimer's Disease

So if they aren’t hearing you, or aren’t listening to what you’re saying, try to say it clearly, in a low but stern voice, without raising the volume. Clear, concise, and consistent communication will come across more than yelling ever will.

10. Stay Level With Them to Maintain Eye Contact

Ensure they know you are speaking directly to them and gain their full attention. If you have to, get down to eye level if they’re in a wheelchair and make direct eye contact. This lets them know that you are speaking right to them, and they must pay attention. And because older individuals may also have issues hearing or seeing, this ensures you can get their full undivided attention, and they can intently listen.

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia (2022 Caregiver Tips) (3)

11. Use Facial Expression to Emote Feelings

A huge part of communicating is emotional. Of course, you can speak expressionlessly and say what you need to say, but it will not have the same impact. People utilize all aspects of communication, from hand movements to facial expressions, to fully grasp what you’re trying to say.

The same goes for communicating with people with memory issues. By smiling and expressing emotion in yourself, they can be more engaged and understand more what you are saying or at least try to communicate with them. If you laugh, they may understand you’re making a joke. If you frown, they might recognize it’s a serious conversation and pay attention.

12. Try Non-Verbal Communication and Cues

There are times when words just don’t cut it. And that’s okay. You can try other ways of communicating with people who have dementia. Sometimes, body language or visual aids are better than words to get the point across.

For example, you could show them a picture of the family if they’re asking for their loved ones. Or, if they’re getting agitated, you could try to calm them down with a gentle touch or by showing them something peaceful.

(Video) Caregiver Training: Home Safety | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program

The main idea is to be as creative as possible and use every tool in your arsenal to communicate with them effectively.

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia (2022 Caregiver Tips) (4)

Other Considerations When Talking to Someone With Dementia

Someone with dementia may not be able to use all of their senses to communicate. They’re also trying to weed through anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical discomfort, and all of the other ailments that come with age.

So arming yourself with this knowledge, and knowing it’s not personal, can help guide you through tough (or easy) conversations with them.

  • Stay calm and approach every conversation without expectations
  • Take care of yourself so you can be the support system they need
  • Approach them with respect, time, and patience
  • Have tools handy like pictures, books, or other methods of communicating
  • Teach their family members communication techniques so they can maintain consistency
  • Read books and continue educating yourself on how to best support individuals with dementia

Ultimately, having a support system of care providers, doctors, involved family members, and communication tools can help alleviate many of the struggles you may have.

For more tips and programs for memory care and treating a person with dementia, check out Sunflower Communities. Our caregivers are highly trained to deal with the difficulties of talking to someone with dementia and ensuring they get the best possible quality of life.

If you are the family of a loved one with dementia, and you need this environment for them to thrive, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

(Video) Caregiver Training: Agitation and Anxiety | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program


What are 5 communication strategies you can use while caring for someone with dementia? ›

Tips for successful communication:
  • Engage the person in one-on-one conversation in a quiet space that has minimal distractions.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Maintain eye contact. ...
  • Give the person plenty of time to respond so he or she can think about what to say.
  • Be patient and offer reassurance. ...
  • Ask one question at a time.

What do you say to a caregiver of a dementia patient? ›

“Just let me know if you need anything,” or “Let me know how I can help.” It's always nice to offer help, but caregivers are often so overwhelmed and exhausted that it's hard to think of things you are willing or have the time to do. Caregivers often don't have the energy to reach out when we need support the most.

How do you answer a dementia patients questions? ›

Reassure the person with a calm voice and gentle touch. Don't argue or try to use logic; Alzheimer's affects memory, and the person may not remember he/she asked the question already. Provide an answer. Give the person the answer that he or she is looking for, even if you have to repeat it several times.

What is the most important thing in caring for dementia patients? ›

Allow the person with dementia to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, he or she might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on. Provide choices. Provide some, but not too many, choices every day.

What types of questions should you avoid when talking to someone with dementia? ›

Avoid asking too many open-ended questions, as it could be stressful for a person with dementia if they can't remember the answer. While it might seem polite to ask somebody about their day, it's better to focus on what's happening in the present.

How do you show respect to someone with dementia? ›

7 ways to show you respect and understand a person with dementia
  1. As their dementia progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to connect with the person you love. ...
  2. Little things mean a lot. ...
  3. Listen well. ...
  4. Feelings are more important than facts. ...
  5. Give them choice. ...
  6. Step into their shoes. ...
  7. Encourage them to look their best.
23 Jul 2015

How do you make someone with dementia feel loved? ›

Have a family sing-song, enjoy a show together, or ask them to play for you to listen. Even when they are no longer able to perform they may still get great joy from listening to music or watching others. People with dementia repeat themselves. Telling and retelling the same story is part of the condition.

What are the three key strategies to use in communicating with an Alzheimer's patient? ›

To speak effectively with a person who has Alzheimer's: Offer simple, step-by-step instructions. Repeat instructions and allow more time for a response. Try not to interrupt.

What a caregiver should not do? ›

What Are Unlicensed Caregivers NOT ALLOWED To Do?
  • Give medications of any kind.
  • Mix medications for clients or fill their daily med minder box.
  • Give advice about medications.
  • Perform a medical assessment.
  • Provide medical care.
8 Jan 2019

What should you not tell a caregiver? ›

What Not to Say to a Caregiver
  • “Why are you having such a hard time being a caregiver?” ...
  • “We haven't seen you in such a long time. ...
  • “You look really tired. ...
  • “Caregiving seems like a burden. ...
  • “You need to get a 'real' life.” ...
  • “Why don't you just put your mother in a nursing home?
11 Nov 2021

What an Alzheimer's caregiver should not say? ›

I'm going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: 1) Don't tell them they are wrong about something, 2) Don't argue with them, 3) Don't ask if they remember something, 4) Don't remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and 5) Don't bring up topics that may upset them.

How do you handle a dementia patient who is angry? ›

How to respond
  1. Try to identify the immediate cause. ...
  2. Rule out pain as the cause of the behavior. ...
  3. Focus on feelings, not the facts. ...
  4. Don't get upset. ...
  5. Limit distractions. ...
  6. Try a relaxing activity. ...
  7. Shift the focus to another activity. ...
  8. Take a break.

What are two proven methods of care for those with dementia? ›

Interventions used in the care treatment and support of people with dementia can be both pharmacological (drugs) and non-pharmacological. The latter include both environmental and behavioural modification. The section to follow will describe in broad terms these two types of interventions.

Do you tell dementia patients the truth? ›

Honesty isn't always the best policy when it comes to someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. That's because their brain may experience a different version of reality. Dementia damages the brain and causes progressive decline in the ability to understand and process information.

What brings comfort and reassurance to a person living with dementia? ›

Comfort the person with verbal and physical reassurance. Distraction or redirection might also help. Giving your loved one a job such as folding laundry might help to make her feel needed and useful. People with dementia may become uncooperative and resistant to daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.

What makes dementia happy? ›

Playing music, having objects to touch and interact with, and hand massage can all help people with dementia in the later stages. Playlist for Life is a music and dementia charity. It promotes how music with personal meaning can help people with dementia. You can find and listen to existing playlists, or make your own.

What are 5 ways you can help people with dementia feel more valued and competent? ›

Here are 5 simple ways one can help:
  • Connect with the person behind the dementia. This one is very simple. ...
  • Make surroundings dementia-friendly. Dementia can often skew how things are viewed. ...
  • Be patient with them. You must be patient with someone living with dementia. ...
  • Avoid correcting them. ...
  • Be sure to reminisce.
13 May 2014

How do you build trust with dementia patients? ›

give them time to respond. give them simple choices – avoid creating complicated choices or options. try not to patronise them or ridicule what they say. try to make sure your body language is open and relaxed.

What 3 things make a good caregiver? ›

Important traits every caregiver should have
  • Patience. Those who provide home care to others need to be patient. ...
  • Compassion. When someone has compassion for another they have an understanding of what the person is going through.
  • Attentiveness. ...
  • Dependability. ...
  • Trustworthiness.

What is the most challenging caregiver? ›

The 4 Most Challenging Caregiver Situations
  1. Taking care of "bathroom issues" Incontinence and trouble with toileting are common among the elderly. ...
  2. Giving mom or dad a bath. People differ greatly in their acceptance of needed help. ...
  3. Dining in a restaurant with disabilities. ...
  4. Going out in public.

What are the 3 common stress of a caregiver? ›

Watch for these signs of caregiver stress: Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried. Feeling tired often. Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep.

What is the most important task of a caregiver? ›

Checking on your senior loved one's health is an important caregiver responsibility. You may need to help keep track of medical appointments, manage medications and chronic conditions, or assess pain levels. It's a good idea to discuss your loved one's health with their doctor and other health professionals regularly.

What are the 6 responsibilities of a caregiver? ›

Caregiver duties and responsibilities
  • Home management and care planning. ...
  • Medical advocacy. ...
  • Prescription medication management. ...
  • Help with personal hygiene and care. ...
  • Assisting with meals and nutrition. ...
  • Help with mobility. ...
  • Home maintenance and basic housekeeping. ...
  • Transportation.
24 Oct 2022

What are the most important tasks a caregiver has to do? ›

Assisting with personal care: bathing and grooming, dressing, toileting, and exercise. Basic food preparation: preparing meals, shopping, housekeeping, laundry, and other errands. General health care: overseeing medication and prescriptions usage, appointment reminders and administering medicine.

What are three challenges caregivers face when caring for dementia patients? ›

Respondents identified their biggest Alzheimer's caregiver challenges as:
  • Dealing with memory loss and impact of the disease on your loved one (25%)
  • Handling the stress and emotional toll on self (16%)
  • Having patience with your loved one (15%)
  • Handling loved one's mood swings or behavior changes (12%)
21 Nov 2018

Why do dementia patients get angry at caregivers? ›

According to Visiting Angels, “Confusion is one of the leading causes of anger and aggression in Alzheimer's and dementia sufferers. Confusion can be triggered by lost trains of thought, mixed up memories, or a sudden change in the environment, such as a change from one caregiver to another.”

What do dementia patients like to talk about? ›

“People living with Alzheimer's may enjoy talking about their families, friends, and the things they like in life, whether it's a hobby, an old TV show, or their favorite foods.”

How do you calm an agitated person with dementia? ›

Keep well-loved objects and photographs around the house to help the person feel more secure. Try gentle touching, soothing music, reading, or walks. Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of people in the room. Try to distract the person with a favorite snack, object, or activity.

How do you calm a screaming patient with dementia? ›

6 immediate ways to handle screaming and crying in dementia
  1. Stay calm. ...
  2. Identify the cause or trigger. ...
  3. Observe and listen for clues. ...
  4. Take care of physical needs. ...
  5. Use calming techniques. ...
  6. Distract and redirect with comforting activities. ...
  7. Ask their doctor to review all their medications. ...
  8. Pain management.

What triggers dementia episodes? ›

Risk factors you can change
  • Diet and exercise. Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia. ...
  • Excessive alcohol use. Drinking large amounts of alcohol has long been known to cause brain changes. ...
  • Cardiovascular risk factors. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Diabetes. ...
  • Smoking. ...
  • Air pollution. ...
  • Head trauma.

What is the best exercise for dementia? ›

Types of exercise for people with dementia
  • Gardening. Gardening is a physical activity that provides an opportunity to get outdoors and is enjoyed by many people. ...
  • Indoor bowls/skittles. ...
  • Dance. ...
  • Seated exercises. ...
  • Swimming. ...
  • Tai chi/qigong. ...
  • Walking.

What is the 30 question test for dementia? ›

The Mini–Mental State Examination (MMSE) or Folstein test is a 30-point questionnaire that is used extensively in clinical and research settings to measure cognitive impairment. It is commonly used in medicine and allied health to screen for dementia.

What causes dementia patients to suddenly get worse? ›

Rapidly progressive dementias or RPDs are extremely rare, but can cause dementia to worsen over weeks and months. RPDs can be caused by complex medical conditions such as Autoimmune conditions, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases – i.e diseases that damage the body's nervous systems.

Is TV good for dementia patients? ›

For men and women with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, it can be especially beneficial. Watching movies and TV shows can help keep their brain active, which can stimulate positive memories, improve mood, and even increase socialization.

Do people with dementia understand what you are saying? ›

Dementia affects the way a person thinks, which can impact on their ability to respond appropriately or follow a conversation. This could be because they: do not understand what you have said.

Do people with dementia tend to lie? ›

It's true that in the early stages of the disease, people with dementia might fib to cover for memory loss. But most examples of “lying” are dementia symptoms rather than intentional deception. “They're more like an unconscious defense mechanism,” says Kallmyer.

What strategies can you use to communicate care consideration and respect for others? ›

Respectful Communication Skills
  • Practice politeness, courtesy and kindness. ...
  • Listen graciously. ...
  • Avoid negativity. ...
  • Talk to people — not about them. ...
  • Don't overcriticize. ...
  • Treat people equally. ...
  • Be emotionally empathetic. ...
  • Value others' opinions.
2 May 2013

What are your strategies for effective communication? ›

Strategies for effective verbal communication
  • Focus on the issue, not the person. ...
  • Be genuine rather than manipulative. ...
  • Empathize rather than remain detached. ...
  • Be flexible towards others. ...
  • Value yourself and your own experiences. ...
  • Use affirming responses.

What are 2 proven methods of care for those with dementia? ›

Pharmacological and Non-Pharmacological Interventions. Interventions used in the care treatment and support of people with dementia can be both pharmacological (drugs) and non-pharmacological. The latter include both environmental and behavioural modification.

How do you cheer up someone with dementia? ›

Listening to music, dancing, or contact with babies, children or animals provide positive feelings. People with dementia often have excellent memories of past events, and looking through old photos, memorabilia and books can help the person to recall earlier times.

What are 3 ways to communicate more effectively? ›

There are specific things to do that can improve your communication skills:
  • Listen, listen, and listen. ...
  • Who you are talking to matters. ...
  • Body language matters. ...
  • Check your message before you hit send. ...
  • Be brief, yet specific. ...
  • Write things down. ...
  • Sometimes it's better to pick up the phone. ...
  • Think before you speak.

What are the 5 communication strategies? ›

Five Types of Communication
  • Verbal Communication. Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. ...
  • Non-Verbal Communication. What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. ...
  • Written Communication. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Visual Communication.
12 Jul 2018

What are 4 communication techniques? ›

4 Types of communication
  • Non-verbal communication. It is interesting to note that non-verbal communication is used both intentionally and unintentionally. ...
  • Verbal communication. When we speak, we are communicating much more than just the content of our words. ...
  • Written communication. ...
  • Visual communication.
19 Jan 2021

What are the 7 communication strategies? ›

7 Communication Strategies For a More Effective Workplace
  • Understand the Full Spectrum of Communication Skills. ...
  • Talk in Person. ...
  • Encourage Participation in Speaking-Focused Organizations. ...
  • Focus on Listening. ...
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions. ...
  • Pay Attention to Body Language and Tone of Voice. ...
  • Invest in Communications Training.
28 Mar 2017

What are the 7 communication methods? ›

Importance of Communication
  • Variety in Communication: Choose Wisely. We are lucky as humans to have a whole host of communication types available for us at our fingertips. ...
  • Interpersonal Communication. ...
  • Verbal Communication. ...
  • Nonverbal Communication. ...
  • Written Communication. ...
  • Visual Communication. ...
  • Listening.

What are 6 tips for good communication? ›

6 expert tips for being an effective communicator
  • Be succinct. ...
  • Be specific. ...
  • Be pleasant and approachable. ...
  • Listen actively. ...
  • Observe others who are good at communication - then copy them. ...
  • Always enter a conversation with two things clear in your mind.


1. Caring for Someone with Dementia - Professional Caregiver Webinar
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2. 5 Tips for Communicating with Someone with Dementia
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4. Caregiver Training: Communicating with A Client with Dementia (Early Stage) | CareAcademy
5. How To Feel Better As A Dementia Caregiver
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6. Tips On How To Effectively Communicate With Someone With Dementia
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