5 Ways to Improve Communication with Dementia


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5 Ways to Improve Communication with Dementia

Dementia creates all kinds of challenges for the older adult who has it and for their caregivers. In addition to memory loss and behavioral changes, people with dementia experience changes in their ability to communicate. As the disease progresses, they can experience changes like:

  • Having trouble finding words.
  • Using some words repeatedly.
  • Not remembering the names of objects, so they describe them instead.
  • Difficulty following through on a train of thought.
  • Going back to speaking in their native language.
  • Using gestures instead of speaking.
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying.

All of these things can make it hard for caregivers to get older adults to do what they are asking. In addition, they may be unable to express themselves, so they become frustrated by not being understood. Knowing some strategies for making communication easier and clearer, like those described below, can make it less of a challenge.

#1: Keep Your Tone Positive

Seniors with dementia will respond to the mood your tone and body language sets. When you keep your tone cheerful and reassuring, it helps the senior to remain calmer. Avoid body language that appears angry or closed off, like folding your arms. Standing over the older adult should also be avoided since it can seem threatening. Instead, if they are sitting in a chair, sit down or kneel in front of them to get on their level before speaking.

#2: Allow Ample Time

Patience is crucial in communicating with a senior who has dementia. It can take them more time to express themselves or catch on to what you are saying. Give them time to think and respond. Rushing them can cause frustration.

#3: Keep It Simple

Speak in short sentences that are easier to understand. When you are giving instructions, break them down into small steps and give them one at a time. Also, make certain you have the senior’s attention before you begin speaking. Make eye contact with them, say their name, and gently touch their arm or shoulder.

#4: Limit Distractions

When there is background noise or action, seniors with dementia may have more trouble focusing on what you are saying. Turn off the television or radio. If there are other people in the room who are talking, take the older adult to a quiet area before starting a conversation with them.

#5: Be an Active Listener

When you take the time to listen actively, the older adult will feel more comfortable and know what they have to say is important to you. Stop what you are doing and focus on the conversation. Repeat what the person said to you and ask them if you understood them correctly. Maintain eye contact and provide encouragement.

Elderly care providers are experienced in communicating with older adults. Since elderly care agencies try to match the skills of their staff with the conditions and needs of their clients, the provider assigned to your aging relative is likely to have experience in working with and talking to people with dementia. Elderly care providers may even be able to share some of their own tips and tricks with you.


If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Littleton, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare West Denver. Call today: (720) 263-6060.


Shanna Tourtlotte

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