These 10 dementia communication tips are an update to my 2008 article “Maintaining Communication Despite Alzheimer’s Disease“. Since 2008 the expert advice on how to stay connected to a person with dementia and how to maintain positive communications remains the same. What has changed is a worldwide effort to provide this information to the general public.
Our goal is to move these proven techniques out of specialized care settings and into private homes where so many families are caring for their relatives with dementia. We also want to de-stigmatize dementia so more people in the larger community feel comfortable communicating with someone with dementia.
Another thing that has changed in the last 15 years is the increasing research documenting the importance of maintaining connections. In one study researchers interviewed people with Alzheimer’s themselves who reported that the #1 factor that influenced their quality of life was their relationships and having someone to talk to.
Alzheimer’s disease impacts an individuals’ ability to communicate with others, but certainly not their need for or desire for connection and conversation.
Top 10 Dementia Communication Tips
Communicating with individuals with memory loss whether it be Mild Cognitive Impairment, more advanced Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-causing diseases such as Parkinson’s takes time and patience. Follow these dementia communication tips to make the exchange easier for both you and your loved one:
- Keep good eye contact and be at eye level with the individual to set the tone for the exchange
- Let the individual know you are listening and trying to understand what is being communicated
- Remove outside distractions, such as TV, radio or other extra sensory input
- Speak slowly and clearly; repeat what you have said multiple times as needed
- When you are speaking, use short simple words and sentences
- Try guessing the correct word if an individual with the disease has difficulty with word-finding
- Gestures can also be used effectively to communicate; use them yourself
- Focus on expressing the emotion and message, respond to that if you are not able to understand the words
- After you speak wait for a response; it may take your loved one extra time to process what has been said and be able to formulate a response
- Use a smile and laughter if you are having a difficult time with communication and try again later
For additional information, read this article, “How to Connect With Your Loved One Who is Living with Alzheimer’s“, or check out these additional online resources:
Understanding an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Help with Communication and Behavior
Communicating with Someone with Dementia
Alzheimer’s Care: Practical tips
Support: Message Boards
Caregiver Support Groups