Each person living with dementia will experience symptoms in different ways.

These tips may improve communication between those with dementia and their carers, family, or friends.

  • Try communicating in an environment that’s not too busy but is calm and quiet with good lighting.
  • Turn off distractions such as televisions or radios.
  • If you find there’s a time of day when the person with dementia is more aware and able to communicate more clearly, use this time to ask any important questions or talk about things.
  • Ensure they’re not hungry or in pain before you try to start a longer conversation.
  • Consider how they might struggle to communicate with you and what might help improve that process. Use earlier experiences of when your communication went well with them as a guide and time the conversations for when you’re not rushed or stressed.
  • Sometimes people with dementia can revert to the language they first learned when communicating. If this is not a language you speak, use a translation app or ask family members who speak the same language to help with communication. Translated written materials can make communication easier too.
  • Try to pre-plan a topic of conversation. If you’re struggling to think of a point of conversation, use the environment around them for points of interest, such as ornaments, photos, or the view.
  • Make sure you listen carefully when the person responds, with encouraging non-verbal interactions such as nodding. Maintain good eye contact.
  • Look for body language signals and facial expressions that may indicate distress when they’re communicating. If they’re having problems finding the correct word or finishing what they’re saying, see if they can explain it in a different way. If the word is an object, ask them if they could describe the object instead of saying the word.
  • Allow time for the person with dementia to respond and try not to interrupt them by giving them the word they’re looking for as this can break their flow of communication and may not be the word they’re trying to say.
  • If they get upset, give them time to express how they’re feeling and be supportive of their concerns by listening to them and showing you’re there for them.
  • Use short, simple sentences in a clear and calm way, but don’t talk to them as you would a child and avoid speaking in a sharp or overly loud manner. Keep the pace slightly slower than normal.
  • Communicate in a conversational way rather than asking lots of questions that could feel like an interrogation.
  • Include them in conversations with other people so that they don’t feel isolated and don’t talk about them to others in front of them, as though they aren’t there.
  • Try to talk at eye level, rather than standing over them, with your face easy to see and close enough so they can hear you well. Keep your body language relaxed and open.
  • Try not to give too many options in discussions and phrase questions in a way that allows for a simple answer. For example, instead of asking if they would like a drink, ask them if they would like a coffee or a tea so the question is less open-ended.
  • If they don’t understand you, rephrase what you’re saying. Try to keep any misunderstandings light-hearted to relieve any feelings of tension.
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